Clergy to discuss ways to help homeless families

Posted Oct. 15, 2010, at 10:19 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Area clergy and members of their flocks are working to form a network of congregations to aid homeless families.

Members of churches, synagogues and mosques are invited to learn more about the Family Promise program at 7 p.m. Monday at the Church of Universal Fellowship, 82 Main St., the Rev. Joan DeSanctis said Thursday.

Most homeless shelters across the country, including the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, are unable to accommodate families with children, said DeSanctis, pastor of the Old Town United Methodist and the Stillwater Federated churches.

There are no networks in Maine, she said. The closest group is in Portsmouth, N.H.

Family Promise was founded in the mid-1980s in New Jersey to provide food, shelter and support services for homeless families, according to information on the not-for-profit organization’s website. Services are provided through Interfaith Hospitality Networks in local communities.

DeSanctis said she hopes congregations in the Bangor area will form a network to help homeless families. To form a successful network, about 50 churches would be needed, the minister said.

The networks are operating in 41 states and the District of Columbia, in large cities, suburbs and rural counties, according to Family Promise. They mobilize community resources: houses of worship for lodging, congregations for volunteers, social service agencies for assessment and referrals, and existing facilities for day programs. This strategy enables networks to help homeless families achieve lasting independence at a third of the cost of traditional shelters.

Nationally, 80 percent of the families that the networks serve go on to long-term housing, according to the website. In 2009, Family Promise affiliates served more than 47,000 children and adults and involved more than 130,000 volunteers in 5,000 congregations.

For information, call DeSanctis at 944-7245.

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