Dear Supporters, Coordinators and Volunteers,
On behalf of the Board of Directors for Family Promise of Essex County (FPE), I am writing to announce an important change to our Emergency Shelter Program. Recently, our Board voted unanimously to transition from the rotational shelter that served our families so well for 32 years to a scattered site shelter. This change means that our emergency shelter for families will now be hosted in four single-family apartments or homes.
This decision was not made lightly. Over the last year, the Board and staff of FPE, alongside congregational coordinators, deliberated the pros and cons of ending the rotational emergency shelter program. We convened the FPE Shelter Task Force, composed of three staff, three board members, one pastor and six host site coordinators. They met several times over the past few months to discuss whether entering back into the rotational model would ever be safe and viable for the long term.
Meanwhile, other Family Promise Executive Directors, with the assistance of Family Promise National, have been exploring the value and long-term stability of alternative shelter models. Our Affiliate will join dozens of others across the country that have made, or are making, the switch to scattered or static site shelter. With scattered site units, FPE can start with one apartment or single-family home and scale up one unit at a time. The Scattered Site model of shelter provides a realistic interim step and will give FPE time to evaluate the feasibility of securing a permanent static site facility in the future. In October, we will begin a search for properties and landlords that would like to partner with Family Promise. If you or your congregation has a property that might be suitable, please let us know.
While this shift is certainly bittersweet, we want to stress that a scattered site shelter will provide stability for our guests and opportunities for our volunteers. We will maintain some of the volunteer roles you have come to love, but plan to expand those opportunities. For instance, we will still be providing meals for families in shelter. We would also like to use the space and facilities available at our Resource Center in Montclair to host skills or creativity workshops led by volunteers that are open not only to our shelter guests but to families enrolled in our other programs. We firmly believe that a scattered site shelter will allow FPE to continue to grow, serve more families, and engage volunteers even more meaningfully. It will reduce our participants’ emotional stress and fatigue related to the constant motion of the rotational model.
We also want to highlight two new programs that are expanding our reach. A recent addition is the Hand Up (Homeless Prevention) program. In addition to maintaining what has made Family Promise so special for the last thirty-two years, we are now able to engage with families before they require shelter to prevent an episode of homelessness. We are also planning to join forces with Circles USA to create a more robust stabilization program for previously homeless families that want to make the journey out of poverty. These programs have already enabled us to receive substantial grants which will provide rental assistance, case management, financial support, and additional staffing to meet our community’s needs at this most critical time. We look forward to sharing these families’ stories of challenge and triumph with you soon.
We understand that this change in our shelter model may bring up feelings of sadness, but please keep in mind that the community that makes Family Promise so special will remain. As we pursue this transition, we look forward to welcoming you at our Resource Center at 46 Park Street in Montclair as we gradually bring back volunteer opportunities in the coming months.
If you have any questions about this change and about what the future holds for our affiliate, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the Board Members, as well as to our staff. We look forward to having you along for the next chapter of our journey!