Seeking places for homeless families

Group works to keep families together

Family Promise of Hudson County opened a facility earlier this year.
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Family Promise of Hudson County opened a facility earlier this year.

Rev Andrew R. Bennett, who is from the Missionary Church in Jersey City and the executive director of Family Promise of Hudson County, is looking for good people to help house homeless families in order to keep families from being torn apart by poverty.

In February, Family Promise celebrated its first anniversary. Since it opened in early 2018, it has helped eight Hudson County families get a roof over their heads and found more than 2,200 shelter beds.

Recently, Rev. Bennett said Family Promise made an agreement with CarePoint Health to serve as the Hudson County affiliate’s official health care partner.

“CarePoint has been actively involved in Hoboken and Jersey City in working to provide health care services to the homeless community,” said Peter Daniels, chief operating officer of CarePoint Health. “However, families at risk of homelessness do not always have the network or services available to help them. When we heard about Family Promise and the work they will be doing in the community, we immediately wanted to get involved as health care partners to help reach this often-overlooked community.”

Caring congregations 

A local affiliate of a national nonprofit, Family Promise works to keep homeless families together by relying on host congregations to provide shelter. All host congregations are currently based in Jersey City and Hoboken, with additional support from congregations in Bayonne.

“There are a number of organizations and programs that provide incredible support for the homeless in Hudson County,” said Tiffany Kane, former executive director of Family Promise of Hudson County. “However, there are few offerings for homeless families that allow the entire family to find shelter and services together. Through Family Promise’s unique shelter model, children will be able to remain in their schools, parents can remain at their jobs, and entire families will be able to receive services through our case management and support system.”

Each night, families stay at one of Family Promise’s host congregations. Each day, they travel to the Family Promise drop-in center, at Fountain of Salvation Church in Jersey City. There, families receive services to ensure they get back on their feet, which include counseling, connections to local resources, such as health care, and housing assistance. In February, Family Promise took part in a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at Fountain of Salvation Church.

The family unit 

While there are services in Hudson County to provide support for the homeless, there are very few options to serve homeless families. Currently, a single father raising his children or a mother raising an adult son with disabilities would not be able to stay together.

Although the Family Promise affiliate is only a year old, the international organization has been working with the homeless throughout the world since the mid-1980s. The Hudson County affiliate is one of 185 in 42 states. Under this program more than 160,000 volunteers help more than 53,000 homeless people, half of whom are children.

“The model is not unique to us,” Bennett said. “As a member of the clergy, I see the church as uniquely positioned to become part of the solution.

“We go after families, not individuals,” he said. “We may be the only group that works with families exclusively. We work to keep them together. We don’t’ separate them.” He said it is about upholding the dignity of homeless families.

“We collaborate with social services within the county, and with other nonprofits, to do job search, financial, and various other aspects of getting back into the world such as how to create a resume, how to get permanent housing, and using resources from HUD to implement some of these,” he said.

In Hudson County as of February, Family Promise served eight families. “This is phenomenal,” Bennett said. “Some of these had been at risk for years, and it is great to have a solution that really addressed their issues.”

He explained, “Families stay with families at night, and then come to the center during the day where they are served by care management.We seek to understand the genesis of the problem, the nature of it, and connect to resources that will help.”

Keeping the promise 

Family Promise collaborates with existing homeless programs such as Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation, and others

Garden state assigns a caseworker to insure proper service.

“Many of the homeless do know how to navigate the social service system,” Bennett said. “We work along with them.”

This could include how get section 8 housing, food, where go when sick, how to get a job, and how to get documents for a job.

Family Promise works closely with government services, companies that provide jobs, mosques, churches, and other houses of worship.

“We’d like to see more congregations involved,” Bennett said. “We just require space. We provide the airbeds for sleeping.”

The idea is to get hosts who will help create a home environment.

“We have churches across Hudson County, and we’re looking for more,” Bennett said. “We would like to see more compassion for the homeless.”

“Our greatest need is for transportation,” he said. “It is difficult to make arrangements, and transportation is very expensive.”

Those interested in helping should go to Familypromisehudsoncounty.org or call Rev. Barrett at 201-448-1839.

Homeless families must be registered with Garden State Episcopal CDC which will refer them to Family Promise. Visit gsecdc.org.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com