Mission Spotlight: Family Promise of Wake County

Each year in Wake County, nearly 8,000 children experience homelessness. Family Promise of Wake County is working to bring that number down to zero.

Family Promise of Wake County began in 1994 as Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network (WIHN), a 501(c)(3) providing church-based emergency shelter and meals to Wake County families experiencing temporary homelessness. Since then, they've expanded the services they offer to include life-skills training, case management provided by social workers, a day center and transitional housing.

They remain one of only two emergency shelters in Wake County to allow families to stay together, regardless of the ages and genders of the children and parents, sparing parents the difficult choice between keeping their families together and finding a safe place for their children to sleep. Family Promise is the only homelessness nonprofit to offer a continuum of services and partnerships to move families all the way from homelessness to safe, affordable, permanent housing.

Each year, more than 50 Wake County congregations reflecting a broad range of religious identities offer their buildings and volunteer power to host up to 10 families each week through an Emergency Shelter program. Every week, two host congregations (sometimes with the help of supporting partner congregations) provide up to five families each a safe place to sleep, meals, transportation and a sense of community. Annually, the Emergency Shelter program engages more than 2,000 volunteers.

70 percent of their families successfully graduate from the Emergency Shelter program, due in large part to the dedicated support of hosting congregations and the case management provided by Family Promise social workers during a family’s time in the program.

During the day, families in the Emergency Shelter program have access to the Family Promise Day Center located on Method Road in Raleigh. After being dropped off in the morning by volunteers from that week’s host churches, families have access to case management services, showers, and computers and phones to conduct job searches.

Other services available through the Day Center include:

  • laundry facilities
  • transportation to and from school
  • a mailing address for use in housing and employment searches
  • a private office for meeting with service providers
  • lockers for safekeeping of personal belongings
  • access to baby, hygiene and cleaning supplies
  • a playroom
  • a TV room
  • a large living room and kitchen

Studies have shown that ongoing services, such as Aftercare programs, are critical to helping families succeed in maintaining stable housing. Upon successful completion of the Emergency Shelter program, families are offered ongoing case management services, including: life skills classes, budget and credit counseling, and support for employment searches.

In February 2011, Family Promise began operating 12 units of transitional housing in an apartment building next to their Method Road Day Center. Families that have successfully completed the Emergency Shelter program have the opportunity to live in one of the three bedroom, three bath transitional housing units for up to 12 months. This program enables guest families to have a much higher chance of remaining independent through intensive wrap-around services and stable housing. During their stay in Transitional Housing, families continue to receive support services, including: continued case management, life skills classes, staff-facilitated support groups and referral services.

82 percent of families in the Family Promise Transitional Housing program successfully move on to safe, stable housing.

In 2012, Family Promise of Wake County formed a pioneering partnership with The Triangle Apartment Association to extend their continuum of services with the New Lease on Life program. New Lease on Life provides families that have completed the transitional housing program with high-quality apartment housing at a reduced and affordable rate for a period of one or two years. Families participating in New Lease on Life continue to work with their case managers to give them the best possible chance at success as they learn the skills necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing.

First Presbyterian Church is a host congregation for Family Promise four weeks per year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program pivoted to using transitional apartments adjacent to the day center for the homeless families, while the host churches provided breakfast, lunch, snacks and evening meals for the families. The congregational hosting model was placed on hold.

Beginning on March 20th, Family Promise will resume one track of the congregation hosting model. First Presbyterian Church is scheduled to host the week of March 27th. Family Promise will gradually build back up to hosting 4-5 families. For our hosting in March, we will provide housing to between 1-3 families while congregations get used to the on-site model.

Safety protocols, masking, temperature checking and social distancing will be maintained. Church School class leaders will get information regarding evening meals from Alison and Marty Zielinski via email. Please visit the Sign-Up Genius form to volunteer as an overnight host or van drive. We definitely congregational support to make this hosting event a success.

If you have any questions, please email Alison and Marty Zielinski or email Kathy Johnson.