When Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga opened its doors to families in need in 1998, we operated out of makeshift rooms next to the Community Kitchen. We had no land, no building, or congregations to house our families. We lacked transportation for the families to get to school and work, no playground for children, no programs, and very few resources.
The dream was to create a place where these families in need could live during the day and at night. Not just a roof above their heads, but among caring souls who would help and guide them as they worked to regain their housing, independence, and dignity while they transitioned to employment and self-sufficiency.
Thanks to the Family Day Center and 39 Chattanooga area congregations, that dream has become a reality. At the Day Center on Baldwin Street, children play, receive tutoring, and participate in reading programs. Families can eat, bathe, and do laundry; kids nap and play while parents receive transportation, case management, educational classes, and assistance finding jobs, housing, education, training, supportive services, and community resources.
At night and on the weekends, Chattanooga area congregations from all denominations provide meals, overnight shelter, and hospitality to these families in transition 365 days a year. Family Promise is interfaith and accepting of all belief systems. We understand that people of every faith are called to serve the needy. We may not agree on theology, but no one thinks poverty is a good idea.
Family Promise is cost-effective. More than 5,000 volunteers annually provide $637,000 in donated labor, leveraging 2.5 times the current annual budget. One hundred volunteers assist Family Promise weekly, making the cost per individual served one-third of the price at similar public programs.
Family Promise gets results. Eighty percent of the families served to transition to stability and housing. Since its beginning, Family Promise has helped 650 families and 1,216 children transition to self-sufficiency.
Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga is part of a national movement to help needy families. It is an affiliate of National Family Promise, which, since 1986, has been the model of effectiveness and efficiency in helping families in need transition to jobs, housing, and success. There are currently over 200 Family Promise affiliates in 41 states, including the District of Columbia. The Family Promise model is unique among agencies providing shelter for families in need because it does not subscribe to institutionalized shelters as a solution.
We changed our name from the Interfaith Homeless Network to Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga, joining affiliates nationwide under the national umbrella of Family Promise. Although our name has changed, the faith-based aspect of our organization remains one of the most integral parts of the program, just as it does with National Family Promise. Our common name with other affiliates strengthens efforts to influence national policy on issues affecting low-income families. At the same time, the change reflects the broader scope and expanded services of what we now do to serve more families in need.