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Voices of Family Promise

  • T.J. Putman

After years of discussion, deliberation and discernment we changed our name from Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network (SIHN) to Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley and it wasn’t easy. There was the logistical side where there was an endless list of things to do, like using up old stationary, changing our website and informing the post office. We made it through that step with only a couple small hiccups. The hardest part of the name change was not tangible. Will we remain true to our mission? Would we continue to follow God’s promise in Matthew 11:28? (Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.) What about our new commitment to the word PROMISE? Could our promise as a faith community reflect the inherent potential and value of every family? I regularly assess where we stand in regard to our mission. We received a little affirmation of this promise when a formerly homeless mother shared the impact we had on her life. I encourage you to spend two minutes watching the video below.

P.S. More than ever before, We're committed to our mission and our promise to the community, “We are congregations practicing hospitality to stand together against homelessness and see lives changed, including our own. I'm thankful that you are part of that with us.

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  • T.J. Putman

On a typical night, 43 congregations shares part in providing shelter or housing assistance for about 155 of our neighbors in need.  The work we do through Family Promise/Interfaith Hospitality Network has a big footprint in our community. Our community is better because of our work, but it also needs our help.

Like all of you, we’re monitoring the current health crisis.  This includes working with our county health department, the CDC and HUD for best practices to protect volunteers, staff, and the families we serve.  We even have a local physician advising us through this process and is available to quickly answer any questions.

Now, more than ever, our community needs our help.  I’d like to highlight a few points as we work through this challenging time:

Homelessness and housing instability will continue to increase – our services will continue to be a critical need.  We’re reaching out to local and national representatives to see if there are legislative ways to keep people out of homelessness through this health crisis.

This crisis is going to hit families hard. We’re expecting to see a loss of wages, jobs, transportation, limited childcare and more. Please help us by advocating for any program that provides these resources in our community.

This is an unprecedented effort, the likes of which I haven’t seen before in my lifetime. We have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of hope.  Let’s provide hope during this time. Together, we can meet this challenge as a community.


T.J. Putman

Executive Director

P.S.  If you’d like to help, we’re going to need food, supplies, and funding for housing assistance.  You can find ways to engage at

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  • T.J. Putman

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives, but now families with children are facing a new struggle. With schools in the Salem area focused on remote learning, many kids are finding that they don’t have the means to fully participate. Apartments can be loud and crowded, making them poor learning environments. Affording high-speed Wi-Fi service is also out of the question for some families whose adults have lost their jobs. This problem is not unique to Salem. Up to a third of all American grade-school children may face these challenges.

Even in a household with computer and Internet access, learning goals often require more parental involvement, adding a new challenge for grown-ups already struggling to manage shifting family needs.

As with many past crises, it is the poorest among us who suffer the most. Limited technology access will cause homeless children to fall behind in both education and, ultimately, in opportunity. Experts even have a name for this effect: the COVID slide.

We are called to serve these children. As a community, we might not care about the latest tech gadget, but we do care about education. What can we do to make the school year work in these uncertain times? We have an opportunity to put our faith in action and help make distance learning better for everyone.

Here is where what you can do…

If you know of a family that might qualify, contact the school district – In the Salem-Keizer area, that number is (503) 391-4060. The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to “remove barriers to the… enrollment and retention of homeless children and youths in schools.” In the context of distance learning and COVID, an electronic device, internet connectivity, and electricity are elements that are necessary for students to enroll and remain in school. We’re thankful the Salem-Keizer School District is helping meet this need.

Support from the faith community – Congregations in our community have provided shelter for homeless families every night for the last 21 years. It might be on pause right now, but we could still use help. Do you have the space available where you can socially distance? What about space where homeless families can access the internet or can charge the laptop they need for school? What about socially distanced tutoring? We can still come alongside families even when our congregations might be apart.

Plan beyond the connection – Sometimes just finding a place to charge a device is difficult for a homeless child. Portable chargers can help. Supplemental tutoring and mentoring can keep kids on track through hectic housing changes. Remember, children living in shelter have gone through a lot of trauma and transition. We’re going to tweak a couple things at Family Promise so kids can easily study. Let me know if you have any other ideas.

Embrace the PositivesCaroline Lamar from the Family Promise in Blount County gave this tip, Make a list of the good things about this school year. Maybe it’s more flexibility in schedules. Maybe it’s the fact you can study in your pajamas? There is good in every day. Every day might not go exactly the way you want, but there is good in every day. For her family, the positives will be the freedom to take a break from schoolwork and go for a nature walk around our neighborhood.

COVID-19 may be with us for a long time, but the children whose education is affected by it will be with us longer. Their future affects our entire community – we can do this! T.J. Putman

Executive Director

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