Family homelessness is complicated. I was reminded of this two weeks ago and every day really when I attended the Family Promise National Convention aspirationally named Mission Possible. There, colleagues from around the country discussed the complexities of what we do and searched for better ways to help homeless families.
Paul Shackford, president of our board of trustees, arranged a meeting with members of eleven affiliates that currently run static site shelters. Our goal was to learn why these affiliates decided to open a static site and discuss some of the obstacles and pitfalls they encountered. We were also interested in discovering any best practices they have implemented.
We arrived at the predetermined room and set up for the meeting. As people began to arrive we realized that there were far more than the eleven people we were expecting at the meeting. By start time, the room was filled to capacity. One of the speakers from a previous session had to sit outside and listen from the door.
In the end, there were far more people there interested in opening a static site than there were those with real experience.
Many of the affiliates in attendance cited difficulty attracting homeless families into their rotational network, which we too have encountered. The higher functioning families move in with family or friends rather than deal with the schedule and the moving around that the Network requires. On the other side, the more challenging families often have multiple issues that make them poor candidates for a model that relies solely on volunteers at the congregations. Lack of reliable transportation was a universal obstacle for families to enter the Network.
We at Family Promise here in Bergen County continue to explore all options. Each move serves as an experiment informing our decisions for a larger site in the future.
In the meantime, I personally appreciate the time and commitment of all of our volunteers. Your service is valuable and really does impact the lives of homeless families with children and, in many cases, changes them forever.
With deep appreciation,