History

THE BEGINNING

Karen Olson was rushing to a business meeting when she passed a homeless woman on the street. On impulse, Karen bought her a sandwich.The woman, Millie, accepted the sandwich but asked for something more — a chance to be heard. Karen stayed with Millie and listened. What she heard made her understand that homelessness brought profound feelings of diminished self-worth and disconnection from society. Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to homeless people on the streets of New York.

1986: THE FIRST NETWORK

When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their homeless neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.

 

She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family Day Center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.

1999: THE NETWORK STARTS IN SALEM

While the loss of a home is a tragedy for anyone, it’s especially devastating for families.  Leaders in our community were shocked to learn in 1999 that over 1000 kids in our area were homeless.  That heartbreaking number prompted our opening.  We began as a grassroots effort by a few local churches and began mobilizing our community to help our neighbors in need in May of 1999.  

1992: POINT OF LIGHT

Family Promise was awarded one of 21 Points of Light, out of a field of more than 4,500 nominees, by President and Barbara Bush, signifying Family Promise as one of the top volunteer agencies in the country. The award recognizes how one neighbor can help another, and calls upon the nation to take action in service to our fellow citizens.

2018: WE BECOME FAMILY PROMISE

We changed our name in the community from Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network to Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley.  Even though the name changed, our Interfaith Hospitality Network remains our core program and congregations continue to lead our work.  The change to Family Promise to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.

2012: THE FIRST FAMILY PROMISE INITIATIVE

Our faith community wanted to do more to help homeless families in our care.  We added weekly Life Skill Classes to provide parents with the tools and strategies to manage daily life.  
 

One of the things parents like best about the classes is being in an environment with other homeless parents who understand what they are going through and can offer emotional support and empathy. For single parents (especially of little ones!), it’s also a time to have meaningful interactions with other adults while knowing their kids are safely cared for.

2018: WE BECOME FAMILY PROMISE

We changed our name in the community from Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network to Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley.  Even though the name changed, our Interfaith Hospitality Network remains our core program and congregations continue to lead our work.  The change to Family Promise to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.

2012: THE FIRST FAMILY PROMISE INITIATIVE

Our faith community wanted to do more to help homeless families in our care.  We added weekly Life Skill Classes to provide parents with the tools and strategies to manage daily life.  
 

One of the things parents like best about the classes is being in an environment with other homeless parents who understand what they are going through and can offer emotional support and empathy. For single parents (especially of little ones!), it’s also a time to have meaningful interactions with other adults while knowing their kids are safely cared for.

2012: THE FIRST FAMILY PROMISE INITIATIVE

Our faith community wanted to do more to help homeless families in our care.  We added weekly Life Skill Classes to provide parents with the tools and strategies to manage daily life.  
 

One of the things parents like best about the classes is being in an environment with other homeless parents who understand what they are going through and can offer emotional support and empathy. For single parents (especially of little ones!), it’s also a time to have meaningful interactions with other adults while knowing their kids are safely cared for.

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