When it’s time for Family Promise’s evening meal, it’s hard to distinguish who is a volunteer and who is a “guest,” a local homeless family working to get back on their feet.
That’s on purpose, said Elise Sinagra, director of the Beverly-based nonprofit. Volunteers do all they can to make their guests feel comfortable, including sitting down with them to eat a nightly meal.
Family Promise houses homeless families overnight in a network of churches and houses of worship. The program’s social worker provides intensive, personalized help to get them back on their feet.
The North Shore affiliate of Family Promise launched in May, after years of planning. In its first six months, the organization has served 16 people in six families and trained close to 600 volunteers from more than 30 congregations across the North Shore and Cape Ann.
“We’re pretty proud of that, to already have that level of success,” said Sinagra, who previously worked as a housing specialist in Congressman John Tierney’s office. “Our hope was that launching (the program) would create momentum, and it has worked out that way.”
They’ve had one family of five “graduate” and move into sustainable housing after 34 days in the program, said Sinagra. Several of the program’s other families are on their way — “right around the corner,” she said — to finding permanent housing.
“The phone calls started pouring in (once they launched in May),” she said. “The need that’s out there is really, really dire.”
In addition to providing one-on-one help from a full-time social worker, the program allows families to stay together, she said.
In one case, the program housed a single mom with a daughter and 18-year-old son. Most homeless shelters would have separated the family because the son was not a minor, Sinagra said.