Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about guests

Who is eligible to apply for your Shelter program?


Any family experiencing homelessness, with at least one person over 18 and at least one person under 18 (or a permanent dependent).




How do we get referred to the program?


Any family experiencing homelessness may contact us themselves, or be referred by a social worker, case manager, pastor, neighbor, relative, friend, former guest, or anyone else. However potential guests are referred, we conduct several interviews with the adults in the family to determine how we can help, get started case managing, and decide mutually whether our Shelter program is a good fit for their needs.




Do we need to be Christian to enter the Family Promise program?


No.




Do we need to be married to enter your program?


No.




How long could we stay in the Family Promise shelter program?


Family Promise is a 30-day program, renewable as long as guests are actively engaged in case management and making good-faith efforts to become ready to become independent and obtain housing. Guests meet with case management at least once per week to review and set goals, celebrate progress, and strategize overcoming barriers.

Before the pandemic, the national average for 88% of guests to find housing was 59 days. Since the pandemic, that time has increased across the country. We work actively with the family using a network of community resources to help locate housing once they are ready to graduate.




If I am a participant staying at a congregation, am I required to attend church there on Sunday?


No; your faith life is your own private decision. No one requires any guest of Family Promise to discuss or participate in any religious activities. Family Promise volunteers do not proselytize guests. However, if you are ever invited you should feel free to say no or yes as you personally prefer. There will never be a penalty or retaliation for not participating in any religious activity.




If I’m in your program and want to make church attendance part of my family's life, am I permitted to engage with one of the volunteer congregations?


Absolutely! You are more than welcome to ask a volunteer about their faith life and congregation, to ask to visit a worship, and to attend or not attend worship anywhere you want.




Do you accept people who are enrolled in medication-assisted treatment (e.g., methadone or suboxone programs)?


Yes, if they are actively enrolled in MAT, and are prescribed these medications along with counseling and treatment services, we accept the use of these medications as a tool for long term success.

In order to assure their best chance for success, guests recovering from addiction must be well-established participants enrolled in and committed to an active and supervised recovery program. Continued participation in the prescribed recovery program is a mandatory part of case management.




Do you accept people with mental illness?


Mental illness by itself will not make a person ineligible. If the illness is being actively and successfully treated/managed and does not pose a risk to the safety of other guests (especially children), volunteers, or staff, it should not present a barrier to entry.




Do you accept people from another county or state?


We would not rule out accepting a guest from another area if we have space and other conditions seem to justify it.




I only have my children on the weekends/I have other children who visit me overnight a few times a week. Can they come stay with me?


Yes.




We have a pet that’s very important to our family. Can we bring her with us?


We understand that pets are an important part of the family. We would welcome into shelter any legally registered service animal. These animals are highly trained and are unlikely to exhibit any behavioral problems that could endanger others in our program.

In the case of others, such as emotional support animals, we are happy to provide boarding or temporary fostering at no expense to the guest family. We have a grant to help us pay for boarding and/or fostering AND all the veterinary care required, including

  • Vaccinations
  • Spaying/neutering
  • Parasite treatment
  • Infectious disease treatment

Both the guests (pet parents) and any private foster parents sign a legally binding agreement to protect all involved and assure the pet is returned to the owners when requested. We also work to assure frequent visits between the guests and their pet to maintain a healthy bond and lessen anxiety on both ends.




Where do guest families stay?


Family Promise partners with local congregations to shelter guests for one to two weeks at a time. Guests have dinner and breakfast and sleep overnight in their own room at one of our host congregations, and make a lunch before returning to the Day Center at 7 a.m. (11 on Saturdays). Our volunteers set up home-like rooms in their facilities in as welcoming a way as possible. Your room is private and your belongings are secure at the host.

On move days (typically a Sunday), a volunteer crew arrives to load the beds and totes with guest belongings into a box truck, move them to the next congregation, and unload them into the guest rooms there. Guests arrive at the next host to find their rooms set up and ready for occupancy.




Does staying at a church mean we have to “pray to stay?”


No. Our partner congregations work with us to host guests out of their own sense of call and based on their own faith. However, your particular views on faith and religion are respected, and no one will proselytize you. If you are curious about a church or a volunteer’s faith, feel free to ask. Most people are happy to talk about their faith with you. Just know that you are always free to accept or decline invitations to worship, as you wish.




Isn’t it difficult to move every week from one congregation to the next?


Moving every week can feel like a lot, but most guest families say that the homelike setting and the friendliness and support of volunteers more than compensate for the moving. While host congregations change every week or two, the Day Center remains the same, providing continuity and a home base. The Day Center is also guests’ permanent address while you’re staying with us, where you can receive mail and which you can use on job and rental applications.

During the pandemic, guests are staying at the Day Center instead of at congregational facilities; however, this has reduced our capacity and reduced the contact between guests and volunteers, which everyone misses. We are eager to get back into rotation at our partner congregations as soon as our leadership and volunteers deem it safe!




Where do we go during the day on weekends?


Guests go to the Day Center at 7 a.m. (11 a.m. Saturdays) to do laundry, shower, do homework, and care for children. Many guests have jobs with weekend hours and may work all day one or both weekend days. Guests may also visit with friends or family or take other trips on weekends. Guests are expected to return to the host facility at 5 p.m. unless they’ve made other arrangements with the hosts (with case management approval).




What if my family doesn’t have a car, or our car breaks down?


Part of the Family Promise program is transportation. We know that cars are expensive to run and expensive to fix and sometimes a family doesn’t have their own transportation or the funds to make repairs. We have a minivan to transport guests between the hosts and the Day Center and to appointments for which public transit is untenable. We also provide bus passes at no cost to guests, and emergency taxi vouchers as needed. As part of case management, we will help you work through any barriers to having your own transportation as well.




I work at night. How would that work?


Guests who work at night can sleep at the Day Center during the day. Many have dinner at the host congregation before going to work or come “home” from work to the host. As long as a responsible adult (who is not a Family Promise staff member or host volunteer) takes charge of children, a night or weekend job works fine.




What if I have a question about guests that wasn't listed here?


Please use the Contact Us link in the header or footer of this websiite or call us at: 360-703-3131





 

Frequently asked questions for congregations

What facilities do host congregations need to have for guests?


Facilities must include a lounge area (like a living room – sofas or other seating, a place for kids to play safely within eyeshot of parents, etc.), a dining area, a kitchen, bathrooms, and sleeping accommodations. Ideally, congregations provide a separate room, such as a classroom, for each family. If that isn’t possible, we have high-quality room dividers to partition a fellowship hall or other large room for privacy.




Is it only religious congregations who can host? My organization would like to participate in hosting Family Promise guests, too.


Any organization with a facility capable of hosting up to 14 guests or four families (including by using our room dividers) is welcome to become a host. If you’d like to learn about becoming a host organization, please visit https://www.fpcowlitz.org/become-a-host-congregation or call us at 360‑703‑3131.




Our building is in use almost all the time. How will we find the space?


Houses of worship are busy places with many demands on their space. Rarely does a “perfect” space exist. Hosting almost always means making some adjustments in the meeting space or time of activities and meetings. For example, four or five times a year, AA or the Scripture Study Group may need to move their Tuesday night meeting to another room.

However, if your congregation truly lacks adequate space but still wants to help, you can become a Support Congregation! Support Congregations pair up with Host Congregations to provide hospitality to the guests. The volunteers of both congregations work together to set up guest spaces, plan meals, cook, eat and visit with guests, etc. Many of our volunteers have said one of their favorite unexpected outcomes of volunteering with their congregation is meeting people from different congregations they might not otherwise have met. Many have made treasured new friends as a result of volunteering with Family Promise.




Can families’ belongings be moved in the morning and moved back in the evening to permit the congregation to use the space during the day?


No. The sleeping accommodations need to be dedicated to the guests for the entire host week. The beds and the guests’ belongings must not be moved in the morning and put back in the evening. Besides being cumbersome, moving the beds and the guests’ belongings would be difficult for guests. When guests arrive on Sunday, they come with the belongings they need for that week. They want to arrange their space as if it were their home.




How long do families stay in the program?


Family Promise is a 30-day program, renewable as long as guests are making good-faith efforts to attain financial stability and find housing.

That said, we do not have absolute time limits. In some communities, families can find housing very quickly. In others—where there is a severe shortage of affordable housing and waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 are closed—finding a home can take 90 days or more. Before the pandemic, 88% of guests found housing in 59 days. Since the pandemic, the time has increased locally and across the country. We work actively with guests using our network of community resources to help locate housing once a family is ready to graduate.

Our goal is to help your family regain their independence as quickly as possible, and to ensure you are able to stay stable after graduation into your own housing. Different situations take different amounts of time and effort to work through; one size does not fit all.




Where do guest families go during the day on weekends?


Guests go to the Day Center at 7 a.m. (11 a.m. Saturdays), where they can do laundry, shower, do homework, and care for children. Many guests have jobs with weekend hours and may work all day one or both weekend days. Guests may also visit with friends or family or take other trips on weekends. Guests are expected to return to the host facility at 5 p.m. unless they’ve made other arrangements with the hosts (with case management approval).




How are families referred to the program?


A family experiencing homelessness may call us themselves, or be referred by a social worker, case manager, pastor, neighbor, relative, friend, former guest, or anyone else. However potential guests are referred, we conduct several interviews with the adults in the family to determine how we can help, get started case managing, and decide mutually whether our Shelter program is a good fit for their needs.




Isn’t it difficult for families to move week to week?


Moving every week isn’t ideal, but most families say that the homelike setting and the support of volunteers more than compensate for the moving. While host congregations change every week or two, the day center remains the same, providing continuity and a home base for families as they look for housing and jobs. The day center also provides a permanent address that families can use in their housing and job searches.

During the pandemic, guests are staying at the Day Center instead of at congregational facilities; however, this has reduced our capacity and reduced the contact between guests and volunteers, which everyone misses. We are eager to get back into rotation at our partner congregations as soon as our leadership and volunteers deem it safe!




What are the insurance implications of participating in the program? Does the congregation have to amend its policy?


Each local Affiliate must carry general liability insurance. Congregations are usually covered by their own property and liability policies because Family Promise is considered to be an outreach ministry, a regular activity of the church like a youth sleepover or Friday night supper. Most congregations find they do not need extra insurance to be hosts. To be certain, each congregation must contact its insurance agent.

We do have formal Facilities Use Agreements with many of our congregations, and some insurers will require this.




Do you accept people from another county or state?


In some cases, an applicant to our program may be leaving their immediate locale for good reasons, such as a job opportunity or family in our area, or to leave a situation that prevents them from getting on their feet. Occasionally we hear from people in severely underserved areas; in those cases, we try to connect them with resources closer to their current locale to minimize disruption to social connections, but we would not rule out accepting them as a guest if we have space and other conditions seem to warrant it.




Do you accept people who are enrolled in medication-assisted treatment (e.g., methadone or suboxone programs)?


Yes, if the guest is enrolled in MAT, and is prescribed these medications along with counseling and treatment services, we accept the use of these medications as a tool for long term success.

In order to assure their best chance for success, guests recovering from addiction must be well-established participants enrolled in and committed to an active and supervised recovery program. Continued participation in the prescribed recovery program is a mandatory part of case management.




Do you accept people with mental illness?


Mental illness by itself will not make a person ineligible. If the illness is being actively and successfully treated/managed and does not pose a risk to the safety of other guests (especially children), volunteers, or staff, it should not present a barrier to entry.




What is Family Promise's policy on proselytizing? Are volunteers from host and supporting congregations permitted to share faith-building stories and/or invite families to participate in church activities?


If a guest initiates the conversation, a volunteer host may share their faith freely with a guest for the duration of that conversation, including an invitation to visit their worship. However, volunteer hosts should not proselytize or initiate such conversations. It is important to realize that volunteer hosts are in a position of relative power over guests, who depend on the goodwill of volunteers for their shelter and meals during their stay with Family Promise. To initiate faith conversations is to put guests into a position of fearing they might offend a host if they are not interested. Besides, most guests have their own faith practices already. Family Promise prioritizes respect and hospitality toward the guest, and assuming they don’t have the right faith or beliefs is not very respectful toward guests.




Do you only accept married couples?


Family Promise strongly believes in keeping families together. Families are strongest and have their best chance to get back on their feet and stay there when they stay together. We believe that separating families creates an additional trauma on top of the triple trauma of homelessness and is highly damaging. Therefore, we accept whoever has a legal guardianship of a child affected by homelessness and all who are considered part of that family unit regardless of the configuration of the family. A couple does not have to be married to enter our program together.




What if my question about congregations or organization participation isn't listed here?


If you have a question concerning congregation or organization participation please click on the Contact Us link at the top of the website or in the footer. Or call us at: 360-703-3131