Family Promise on the National Level

Karen Olson was rushing to a business meeting when she passed a homeless woman on the street. On impulse, Karen bought her a sandwich.

The woman, Millie, accepted the sandwich but asked for something more – a chance to be heard.  Karen stayed with Millie and listened.  What she heard made her understand that homelessness brought profound feelings of diminished self-worth and disconnection from society.  Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to homeless people on the streets of New York.


1986: The 1st NETWORK

When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their homeless neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.

She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family day center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.



As word spread, more New Jersey congregations formed a second network. Other congregations were inspired to develop similar programs.

In 1988, the National Interfaith Hospitality Network was formed and plans began to make this a nationwide program.



Locally in Modesto, our Family Promise has been operating since 2005.  It took a determined and dedicated group of 12 compassionate individuals to get the ball rolling in 2002.  Three years later, with 8 host congregations, day center space, a brand new van, 16 roll away beds, and a professionally skilled staff, we opened our doors to welcome our first group of

Since 2005, Modesto Family Promise has helped more than 200 families in the Central Valley regain their independence and overcome homelessness, and over 80% of the families served have remained in permanent housing.

Our nationwide organization has come to represent not just the programs that touch the lives of more than 50,000 people across the nation in need annually. It represents a national movement that believes we can address family homelessness—right here in our own communities.