"The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped," said former U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. As the Penn Medicine News Blog continues featuring staff who follow the same guideline in their own lives, we turn to one employee’s work with Family Promise Interfaith Hospitality Network of Gloucester County to combat homelessness in the region.
Not having a roof over your head, knowing where your next meal will come from, and/or having insufficient access to proper sanitation is a dangerous reality for the estimated 11,757 homeless people in our region, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Since 1986, Family Promise works to fight these tragic numbers nationwide. Grown significantly from its inception, now 5000 congregations in 41 states comprise 171 networks nationwide. One of those networks started in 2005 in Gloucester County, New Jersey.Family Promise of Gloucester County offers food, shelter, and vital services to homeless families. When a social service agency, school, or someone else reaches out to the director of family promise, they invite the family to an intake interview. If the family, (must be a family to be eligible), is a suitable candidate for the program, and pass national, criminal, and sex offender background checks, they are invited back to meet with the director again to set up a stability plan with a budget, goals for employment searches, and more. The children stay in the same schools they would otherwise attend. If unemployed, during the day, the rest of the family stays in the day center to look for work and housing, as long as the family continues working towards the objectives in the stability plan. The strict schedule imposes a curfew on the families also.
The Gloucester County organization works with one paid employee only and nearly 700 volunteers dedicated to making this group a success in improving lives in the region.
The churches provide overnight accommodations for families
there. For example, a week-long cycle at Holy Family Church in Sewell, NJ, is
quite a through process. Sunday night, they stay in the parish center, where
cots are set up for sleeping. A family from the Parish provides dinner for the
homeless visitors. At 9 pm, two hosts stay overnight with the guests. Each and
every morning, a van picks the families up and takes them to the day center,
Family Promise in Glassboro. At the day center, a social worker and director of
the program give families resume help, child care, parenting skills workshops,
help the families find housing, set eligible guests up with Medicaid, and other
services. This Church does this four times a year for a week at a time.
Sometimes the evening hosts include college or high school students who will assist homeless children with homework or do arts and crafts with them. At the end of the week, they pack up and go to the next church.
The Penn Medicine CAREs grant will be used for needs of the program’s guests. This may include medical care, medication, clothes, and related needs.
Once a family gets back on their feet and they receive housing and a job, the Gloucester County group throws them a graduation party with a small gift to get them started on their way.
“They asked for volunteers at my Church, and I’ve been involved ever since,” said Kris Gallagher, practice manager, division of plastic surgery, who has volunteered with this organization since it came to her Church five years ago. “The people in the program really want to help themselves, and it’s nice to be able to volunteer to help them get to that point.”
About Penn Medicine CAREs
Continuing its commitment to underserved communities, Penn Medicine established the CAREs Foundation Grant Program in January 2012 to support and recognize faculty, student, and/or staff efforts to improve the health of the community and increase volunteerism in community-based programs. These programs have addressed health disparities, provided care to seniors, administered free medical care to homeless in Philadelphia, helped fund medical care for uninsured and underinsured, and more.
Each quarter, the Foundation awards grants of up to $2000 per project to community and hospital-based programs on behalf of the employee(s) or Perelman School of Medicine student(s) who volunteer their time to support the program. The funding is eligible for expenses related to initiatives in community health improvement services, health professions education, subsidized health services, cash and in-kind contributions, or community building activities.