Click HERE to link to the national Family Promise website.
In 1982, Karen Olson was a marketing executive who developed promotional campaigns for consumer products. One morning, on her way to a meeting, she saw a homeless woman, someone she’d seen over and over again on her way to work. She decided to buy a sandwich for the woman. The stranger accepted the sandwich but asked for something else – a moment to be heard, to be comforted, and to be considered as more than a mere statistic on a cold street corner.
Soon, Karen and her two young sons began frequent trips to New York to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. As she came to know some of the city’s homeless people, she began to understand the profound loss and disconnection that homelessness causes. That understanding turned into an enduring commitment.
She turned to the religious community for help, convinced that there were many who shared her concern and that together they could do what they couldn’t do alone. Within ten months, eleven area congregations came forward to provide hospitality space within their buildings. The local YMCA agreed to provide showers and a day center for families. A car dealer discounted a van. On October 27, 1986, the first Interfaith Hospitality Network opened its doors.
As word spread, ten more congregations formed a second Network. Programs for transitional housing, childcare, and family mentoring followed – outgrowths of increased awareness and involvement.
Today, Family Promise has established more than 200 affiliates in 42 states, using the services to mobilize more than 180,000 volunteers in their commitment to building communities, strengthening lives. The mission of the national Family Promise, located in Summit, New Jersey, is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence. Their vision is for a nation in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and the chance to build a better future together.