Karen Olson was rushing to a business meeting when she passed a woman experiencing homelessness on the street. On impulse, Karen bought her a sandwich. The woman, Millie, accepted the sandwich but asked for something more — a chance to be heard. Karen stayed with Millie and listened. What she heard made her understand that homelessness brought profound feelings of diminished self-worth and disconnection from society. Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to people experiencing homelessness on the streets of New York.
1986: THE FIRST NETWORK
When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their neighbors experiencing homelessness find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.
She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family Day Center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.
1988: THE NETWORK GOES NATIONAL
As word spread, more New Jersey congregations formed a second network. Other congregations were inspired to develop similar programs. In 1988, the National Interfaith Hospitality Network was formed to bring the program nationwide. In addition to shelter, meals, housing, and job-seeking support, Affiliates began developing programs for transitional housing, childcare, and homelessness prevention. Nationally, programs like Just Neighbors and Family Mentoring were added.
1992: POINT OF LIGHT
Family Promise was awarded one of 21 Points of Light, out of a field of more than 4,500 nominees, by President George H.W. and Barbara Bush, signifying Family Promise as one of the top volunteer agencies in the country. The award recognizes how one neighbor can help another, and calls upon the nation to take action in service to our fellow citizens.
2003: FAMILY PROMISE
National Interfaith Hospitality Network changed its name to Family Promise to reflect its broad range of programs and vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.
2013: FAMILY PROMISE OF THE PALOUSE
On October 5th, 2013, Family Promise of the Palouse was founded as an affiliate of the national program. Since then, we have changed the lives of countless families on the Palouse that needed it the most.
2018: BRAND REFRESH
At a national conference, Family Promise National introduced a cleaner, more modern logo, in line with a two-year brand refresh. We retained the iconic star from our old logo.
The star remains as the logo’s most important element and a visual touchstone to our organization’s history. The five points of the star represent the five key elements of Family Promise: shelter, prevention, stabilization, community, and promise.
2020: COVID-19 PANDEMIC BRINGS CHANGES
In 2020, the entire world was faced with challenges when COVID-19 began spreading rapidly throughout communities. While entire populations quarantined in their homes, it became clear that stable housing was a key component to staying healthy and safe. We were forced to transition from the congregational shelter model to a hotels-as-shelter model, using our funds and outreach to fund hotel stays for families in our program while our congregations prepared (or bought) meals. However, the end of 2020 brought us our best ever fundraising year, with over $129,000 raised in the Avenues for Hope holiday giving campaign.
During this time, Family Promise also became a go to resource for information on the eviction moratorium, COVID-19 Economic Relief Policies, and the experiences of families across the U.S. Affiliates were featured in the media speaking about this issue, including in the New York Times, in The Washington Post, on the TODAY Show, on CNN’s website, and more.
2021: RETURN TO "NORMAL"
After the vaccine rollout allowed COVID-19 restrictions to become more relaxed, we were able to return to the congregational shelter model in the summer. This took a big financial burden off our shoulders and allowed our congregational volunteers to get more involved in our program again.
In May, we hosted Comfort Food From Your Car, a twist on our usual yearly Comfort Food Cook-Off. Instead of serving a delicious spaghetti dinner to raise funds, we boxed it up and delivered it, drive-thru style, to our supporters' cars as they lined up outside St. Mary's School. The spaghetti was delicious and the fundraiser component was successful.
We also redesigned our website to use a template based on Family Promise National's site, which you are now seeing. One of our dedicated volunteers poured many hours into transferring all the content to this new design.