, Salem, MA

October 9, 2012

Family Promise aims for spring debut

Churches, temples joining together to pitch in for organization that helps homeless

By Bethany Bray
The Salem News

---- — The North Shore chapter of Family Promise, a nonprofit that aids homeless families, has hired an executive director and hopes to be up and running by spring.

Elise Sinagra, a Gloucester resident who previously worked as a housing specialist in Congressman John Tierney’s office, took over as the organization’s first director this fall.

A startup date — hopefully early spring — should be solidified over the winter by the board of directors, Sinagra said.

Family Promise provides temporary shelter for homeless families in churches and temples, as well as one-on-one support services to get families back on their feet. A North Shore branch of the New Jersey-based organization has been in the planning stages for roughly two years.

Fourteen area churches and hundreds of volunteers, from Salem and Beverly to Ipswich and Rockport, have joined the effort.

Each congregation will house a family for one week, four times a year, and volunteers will provide meals and support, such as helping children with their homework. The program will employ a full-time social worker, who will refer families into the program and work with them to find permanent housing and other social services.

They’re still working on finding a day center, a central office where the families can meet with the social worker, Sinagra said.

“We’re definitely making strides,” she said. “... The outpouring of support (we’ve experienced) is indicative of the dire need there really is for this program on the North Shore.”

Sinagra said she’s heard from local social service agencies that already have a list of families in mind for Family Promise, once the program is up and running.

“The need is out there,” she said.

The Family Promise model is successful because participants are given intensive, personalized attention, Sinagra said.

Founded by a New Jersey woman in 1986, Family Promise now has 174 affiliates in 41 states, including chapters in Worcester and Natick.

Sinagra started her career in marketing. After 10 years, she did a career change and switched to social work.

Before working for Congressman Tierney, Sinagra worked for two housing and social service agencies in Gloucester: Wellspring House and Action Inc. She has a master’s in social work from Salem State University.

“I have served low-income folks who are trying to get themselves on better footing,” Sinagra said. “Some of the most gut-wrenching phone calls that I ever had were from those moms that are living in hotels (used as housing for the homeless). ... They would talk about how hard it is to try and do right by their family. Shelter is such a basic human need, not a luxury.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.


To find out more or get involved, visit

Sunday, Oct. 21: Beatles Tribute Concert fundraiser, 3 p.m. at First Church, 1 Arbor Road, Wenham

Thursday, Oct. 25: Meet and greet with new director Elise Sinagra, 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Chianti restaurant, 285 Cabot St., Beverly