Greater Portland Family Promise (GPFP) aims to provide homeless families in the Greater Portland, Maine area with basic human needs—shelter, safety, and sustenance—with a spirit of warmth and hospitality. Although the City of Portland has a family shelter that serves up to 151 individuals, the shelter is frequently at capacity leaving additional families without a place to stay while they seek permanent housing. GPFP will serve up to 4 families (14 individuals maximum) at a time. Families who are guests in the program are provided food, shelter, case management, and hospitality as they work to find sustainable housing, employment, childcare, and educational opportunities.
In the Family Promise model, each host congregation furnishes clean, safe, overnight lodging and nutritious meals for one week, typically on a quarterly basis. Host congregations are supported by other faith communities who provide additional volunteers —making healthy breakfast and suppers, playing with children or helping them study and talking with parents after a long day.
While enrolled in the program, guest families receive meals, private sleeping space, and support and fellowship from volunteers in the evenings and mornings. During the daytime, guests are transported to and from the GPFP day center, where they can shower, do laundry, and store their belongings. Families leave from the day center to go to school or work, and to search for employment and housing. Each family receives case management from GPFP staff in order to secure housing, employment, and childcare. Families will also receive training and support in financial literacy and other sustainability building areas.
Volunteers are the heart of the Family Promise model. They provide the “people power” to get the necessary jobs done, and the personal support and compassion that homeless families need. In addition to furnishing meals, overnight hosting and other responsibilities, volunteers do simple but immeasurably important things. They talk to guests. They listen to them. They treat them with respect. Volunteers can be a source of hope, when hope has been lost.