Our 20th anniversary
Things were sure different 20 years ago. There was no internet. Airport guests could go all the way to the gate to greet/say farewell to their passengers. Maricopa County had 1.5 million less people. Loop 101 was incomplete and Phoenix-area gas was $1.29/gallon.
That was the world Family Promise of Greater Phoenix entered when it welcomed its first families on this day in 2000. By year end — an entire two months later — we rescued 13 families with children (47 individuals) from homelessness.
This is how we transported families to/from host congregations in the early days.
It only happened through the love that one part-time staff member, a few dozen volunteers and 12 congregations extended to fellow families facing a personal housing crisis. Those congregations took turns hosting our families every night for a week. That was where our families ate a warm meal, played after dinner, and slept in makeshift bedrooms. Getting away from Family Promise’s Family Day Center each night let parents physically and mentally leave the stress of being homeless behind. The families had a precious chance to feel “normal.” They woke up refreshed and empowered to make strides toward employment, housing, and self-sufficiency.
It is a routine that has repeated itself every night since — 7,300 and counting — except for a brief break during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. Volunteers at a growing number of congregations continue to open their doors and their hearts to our families. It is a priceless embrace.
When families come to us for assistance, they very often have had may calls go un-returned and many referrals that just didn’t pan out. So when they finally walk through our gates they immediately feel a sense of peace and support. These parents and children have run out of options for safe places to sleep and live while they get back on their feet. After a day or two of decompressing the real work begins:
- children are enrolled in school/daycare
- parents seek employment
- basic needs are taken care of
- prospective housing is identified
- emotional support is unending
As typical with nonprofits, our volunteer base still far outnumbers staff (1:170). Together, we just might rescue our 1,400th family by year end.
The Family Promise of Greater Phoenix founders had no way of knowing that five years later, it would share an anniversary with:
- National Cat Day — Established in 2005. By 2012, Family Promise of Greater Phoenix became the first Family Promise affiliate nationwide to become pet-friendly. On-site dog and cat sanctuaries allow families in our Emergency Shelter Program to safely board their pets. Extra indoor and outdoor space lets pets feel more at home with an outdoor dog run, living room for the cats to wander while supervised, and counter areas for smaller caged/aquarium pets. A homeless cat who wandered in and adopted us over 10 years ago now lives at our Earll Family Day Center.
- International Internet Day — Established in 2005 in honor of the first internet connection made on this day in 1969 (just two months after the first moon walk). There were more than 4.39 billion internet users worldwide in 2019. A good number of our families find Family Promise through the internet. It is also how volunteers are often recruited/sign up to help and part of how we share the blessings that volunteers, in-kind donors, and monetary donors share with our families.