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Family Promise FAQ

How long do families stay in the program?

The Guest Guidelines call for a maximum stay of 30 days. However, program directors often extend the stay as long as families are making good-faith efforts to find housing. In some communities, families can find housing within 30 days. In other communities—where there is a severe shortage of affordable housing and waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 are closed—finding a home can take 60 days or more.

How are families referred?

Whatcom County has a program set up called Single Entry Access System so all homeless families start here in order to ensure the neediest of the families in need are served first. This also helps families as they only call one place rather than calling number after number. We also accept referrals from congregations.

Isn’t it difficult for families to move week to week?

Moving every week isn’t ideal, but most families say that the homelike setting and the support of volunteers more than compensate for the moving. The Day Center remains the same, providing continuity and a home base for families. The Day Center also provides a permanent address that families can use in their housing and job searches. Remember that Family Promise is meant to be a temporary solution for families seeking more stable housing.

Will the children miss school because their families are staying in different congregations?

No. The director works with the school system to ensure that all children attend school. The Day Center is the permanent address of the Family Promise program. Children go to the school they have been attending or to the school nearest the Day Center. Arrangements are made locally with the school system.

In 1987, Congress passed the McKinney Act, (also referred as “Whatever is in the Best Interest of the Child”) legislation that requires all states and school districts to provide for the education of homeless youth. Each state has developed a plan to implement the Act. Most of the state plans are flexible and allow children to attend the school they last attended or the school closest to the Day Center.

What are some of the advantages of the Family promise program over a traditional shelter?

A Family Promise program has these advantages:

  • It is cost-effective because it utilizes existing community resources.
  • In Family Promise programs, about 76 percent of the guest families find permanent housing, often with volunteers’ help.
  • For congregations, the program is a vital outreach ministry within the walls of the members’ own church or synagogue.

A Family Promise program is a catalyst for other community initiatives. Many active programs go on to create new programs in areas such as parenting and mentoring, transitional housing, and housing renovation.