Family Promise Montgomery

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What facilities are required by host congregations?

A: A lounge area (with sofa, chairs, tables, TV, etc.), dining area, kitchen facilities, access to bathrooms, and sleeping accommodations. Ideally, congregations provide separate rooms for families. Classrooms work very well. Where this isn't possible, fellowship halls or other rooms divided by partitions provide privacy.

Q: Our building is in use almost all of the time. How will we find space?

A: Most congregations (approximately 95%) find that they do have to adjust their schedules. For example, it may mean having AA or the Bible Study Group move its Tuesday night meeting to another room a few times a year.

Q: Can families' belongings be moved in the morning and back in the evening so that the church can use the space during the day?

A: The sleeping accommodations need to be dedicated for the entire host week. That is, the beds and guests' belongings must not be moved in the mornings and put back in the evenings. Besides being cumbersome, this would be difficult for the guests. When guests arrive on Sunday, they come with all their belongings, a few of their children's favorite toys, perhaps some family pictures, and they arrange the space as if it were their home.

Q: How long do families stay in the Network?

A: The Guest Guidelines for the Montgomery network call for a maximum stay of 30 days. This amount of time is allowed as long as families are making a good faith effort to secure housing.

Q: Where do guest families stay during the day on weekends?

A: Families stay at the Day Center. If this isn't possible because it is used for other purposes at that time, then a second day center site for weekends needs to be secured.

Q: How are families referred to the Network?

A: The Network Director is connected with various referring agencies such as existing family shelters, public welfare, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. The Director has provided these agencies with a description of the program as well as printed material explaining the referral criteria and process. When a homeless family seeks shelter through one of these agencies, the agency social worker conducts a brief intake interview and may contact the Director to find out if space is available. If space is available, and if the family seems appropriate for the Network, then the family will be referred to the Day Center where the Network Director conducts a more in-depth interview before accepting them into the Network.

Q: Isn't it difficult for families to move each week?

A: Moving each week isn't ideal. However, most families say the homelike setting and the support of volunteers more than compensate for the moving, and the opportunity to meet new volunteers is welcomed. While host congregations change every week or two, the Day Center remains the same and thus provides continuity and a home base for the families as they look for housing and jobs. The day center also provides a permanent address that families can use in housing and job searches.

Q: Will children miss school because their families are staying in different congregations every week or two?

A : No. All school age children in the Network attend school. The permanent address of a Network is the Day Center. In 1987, Congress passed legislation for the homeless called the McKinney Act, which, among other things, requires that all states and school districts provide for the education of homeless youth. Each state has developed a plan as to how they will implement this.

Q: What are the insurance implications? In general, does the congregation have to amend its policy?

A: Each local network carries general liability insurance. Because a congregation's outreach ministry embraces participation in Family Promise, its regular property and liability policy generally covers the program. Thus most congregations find that they do not need extra insurance since the Family Promise program is considered to be an activity of the church such as Youth Sleepover or Friday Night Supper. To be sure, a congregation should contact its insurance agent.

Q: Do congregations need permission from their Planning and Zoning board to become a host congregation?

A: None of the 500 participating Family Promise host congregations has had to receive permission from its town zoning board. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not only to worship but also to provide hospitality, which includes sheltering within the church or synagogue. Because of this, the Network does not come under shelter regulations, since it is housed in the church and thus is considered a mission of the church. A few churches have sought approval and have run into red tape and delays, only to find out that they didn't need to seek approval.