Family Promise ‘helps a family stay together’

Amid the North Shore’s quaint coffee shops and swank country clubs, it’s a problem that’s often out of sight, out of mind.

But not for the people behind Family Promise, a local non-profit aimed at offering support to homeless families in the region.

“It is more common than anyone would ever think,” says Rebecca Lillian, the group’s only full-time employee, of homelessness across the North Shore.

In 2009, Evanston School District 65 alone had 200 students in homeless situations, according to the group’s Web site.

The Glencoe-based organization–one of 150 Family Promise chapters nationwide–launched this March to help families in the area stay together while finding permanent affordable housing.

To accomplish that, it enlists the help of 12 area interfaith congregations to house up to 4 families or 14 people in week rotations.

Each week, a different congregation offers families a place to sleep and eat from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.  Volunteers help children with homework and offer adults help in their search for jobs and affordable housing.  And since their spring launch, they’ve already helped a handful of families get back on their feet.

One of the unique traits of the program is that serves only families. “There is no other agency that helps a family stay together,” says Lillian, adding that many homeless shelters help only individuals.

The North Shore chapter of Family Promise was the brainchild of Brek Peterson. Peterson wanted to find a way to help families while at Winnetka Congregational Church, and was familiar with the national organization.

“We felt like it might be something worthwhile because of the gap in affordable housing,” Peterson says.

Family Promise currently runs almost entirely on private donations and volunteers.

“This organization would not function without volunteers,” Lillian says.

Interested in volunteering with Family Promise Chicago North Shore? Click here to find out more.