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.
1988: THE NETWORK GOES NATIONAL
As word spread, more New Jersey congregations formed a second network. Other congregations were inspired to develop similar programs. In 1988, we formed the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to bring the program nationwide. In addition to shelter, meals, housing, and job-seeking support, our Affiliates began developing programs for transitional housing, childcare, and homelessness prevention. Nationally, we added programs like Just Neighbors and Family Mentoring.
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.
2001: DELCO IHN IS BORN
Sue Fromhold, Paula Troy, Rev. Mary Jane Kirby and Barbara Drake carried this idea of compassion to Delaware County intent on instituting the successful principals of Interfaith Hospitality Network, to house the homeless. They began the process of making this dream a reality by forming a Board of Directors, creating By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation, filing for 501 (c)(3) tax-exemption, and seeking funding. Delaware County Interfaith Hospitality Network (Delco IHN) was born.
Over the next 6 years, through board committees, this small board of directors worked hard to realize our goals and objectives to provide children and families facing homelessness temporary shelter with compassion and to help them regain stability. They recruited 7 congregations, congregation coordinators, and volunteers to form the Delaware County Interfaith Hospitality Network to ensure our success.
2003: NATIONAL BECOMES FAMILY PROMISE
National Interfaith Hospitality Network changes its name to Family Promise, to reflect their 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.
2007: FPDELCO-IHN SHELTERS
With funds in the bank, 7 host congregations waiting for us to open, we took the leap of faith and in August of 2007, we hired a Director and leased and furnished space at the YWCA in Chester, PA. National helped us with the training of host congregation coordinators and volunteers. Family Promise of Delaware County - DCIHN began sheltering families on September 9, 2007