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Voices of Family Promise

  • 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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Updated: Aug 20, 2020

With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the recent declaration that we are now entering a national

State of Emergency, these are uncertain times for all of us. However, for the estimated 31.8% of Oregon working families who live in poverty, the possibility of losing their home or job compounds this uncertainty.

 The effects of COVID-19 will be far reaching and go beyond public health. This outbreak will undoubtedly destabilize the housing situation of countless families in our community unless we take proactive steps to mitigate this now.

 The impact this outbreak will have on vulnerable families is profound. Hourly workers have already begun to see significant reduction in their paychecks and there is a very real possibility that we will begin to see layoffs. As seen in other countries, those in service and hospitality will be hit the hardest. For many of our neighbors who do not have sufficient, if any, paid sick leave, an illness for themselves or a member of their family will mean serious losses to their household income as well. Those who already live in- or on the edge of- poverty will be hit the hardest and it is not unlikely that we will see increases in homelessness, evictions and food insecurity.

 As schools across the state close, working parents will also struggle with the issue of childcare. Many parents will be forced to make the decision between paying for childcare or taking extended unpaid leave from work. The latest figures from the Salem-Keizer School District show that roughly 1,150 students are experiencing homelessness, meaning these closures will have a devastating effect on their way of life.

We understand that securing public health is of the highest importance, however the economic fallout of this crisis will disproportionately impact working families. Over 150,000 Oregon families pay more than 50% of their income to housing, meaning a single unforeseen financial crisis can destabilize them, putting them at risk for homelessness. We want to make sure every precaution possible is taken to prevent this from happening to working families.

In crises such as this one, it is important that we display compassion and caring for every member of our community. While we are not able to physically come together, now is the time to show solidarity in the protection of our most vulnerable citizens. We believe the best ways to do this are to donate food, supplies and funding to local shelters and service providers along with amplifying their work.  You should also reach out to local lawmakers to ensure they pledge, and seek legislation, to support vulnerable families.

If you want to help, please reach out to us at If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please reach out to or

COVID-19 will change our way of life as we take preventative steps to mitigate its impact. Don’t let it change the lives of vulnerable Oregonians families forever.

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