Is Family Promise a Faith-Based Organization?

The question comes up about whether Family Promise Affiliates are faith-based organizations or not. They are not; they are social service agencies partnering with the faith community.

A core principle of Family Promise program is that the resources needed to help families facing homelessness are right here in the community. What is needed? Space, volunteers, a day facility, transportation and social service connections. Rather than invest in new infrastructure, at high cost, and create permanent institutions for what is a transitory situation, Affiliates turn to the religious community for these resources. This innovative approach has enabled the program to operate at a third or less of the budget of a traditional shelter.

So, while an Affiliate generally consists of 13 hosting congregations along with many others providing volunteers, meals, funding and more, it is just as much a partnership with non-religious organizations in the community. The day center is often in conjunction with another community agency, transportation may be provided by local companies or agencies, the Affiliate’s director partners with housing authorities, shelters, landlords and other service providers and funding comes from a variety of government, corporate, individual and foundation groups. Each affiliate is its own separate 501c3, a nonprofit corporation formed to serve families in crisis by utilizing community resources and by its very mission, not a religious organization.

Those in the religious community are motivated to serve their Affiliates by many factors, not least of which is their faith. However, there is a clear line between providing hospitality and volunteering and any sort of religious practice. This is understood within the hosting congregations: absolutely no proselytizing is permitted.

The program is analogous to many activities that take place in churches, synagogues and other houses of worship: AA meetings, Boy Scouts, support groups, childcare and so on. In each case, the organizations utilize an existing resource—congregations—and in turn those congregations fulfill a mandate to engage in community outreach and serve the greater good.

Family Promise affiliates have a more than 25 year history of helping homeless families regain their sustainable independence. This has been possible through the actions not just of congregations, but through countless secular groups, whether they are government agencies providing funding and referrals, civic groups that volunteer, or the countless individuals, foundations and corporations whose generosity has made these networks viable. Virtually all of our more than 180 operating affiliates have longstanding support from organizations that cannot partner with religious organizations, precisely because these organizations recognize the non-religious nature of the program and its innovative use of existing resources.

The result has been, over the course of these 25+ years, more than 600,000 children and adults in families served and each year 160,000 volunteers engaged.

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