Interfaith group makes promise to help Western Pa. homeless
Family Promise of Southwestern Pennsylvania has a simple mission: to put a face to the word “homeless.”
The Rev. Richard R. Seiler Jr., pastor of All Saints Polish National Catholic Church in Carnegie, would know.
His congregation has been involved with the organization since January. As a host church, All Saints invites selected homeless families to stay overnight at the church for a week at a time.
In all, 39 churches are involved in this two-county organization. Formerly called the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Family Promise was founded in Washington County 19 years ago to assist families in need.
Allegheny County began its outreach from Crafton in 2007. St. John's Lutheran Church of Carnegie and Bethany Presbyterian Church of Bridgeville also are among the 16 host churches.
“For a small parish, I didn't think we were capable,” Seiler said.
But church members volunteered, preparing evening meals, caring for the children, driving families back to a day center in Crafton each morning or making donations to pay for expenses. Parents return to the center for assistance in finding housing and employment while their children attend school or play.
“We've all heard that the homeless want to be there,” he said, “but they don't want to be there, going from church to church, sleeping on air mattresses.”
Families are kept together. A mother and two teenage sons, for example, wouldn't be permitted to stay together in a typical homeless shelter; nor would a single father and his baby daughter.
“This is a life-changing ministry for families we serve,” said Laura Karl Vincenti, executive director of Family Promise for almost four years.
She has watched many families move successfully into housing and better lives.
Dan Wolfe has been involved with the families at Bethany Presbyterian Church, where the program has operated for three years. Today, the church has 75 volunteers.
“The ages vary wildly,” he said of those who call Family Promise. “Babies are pretty common, and sometimes grandparents and grand kids.”
Families usually stay for one to three months with individual churches that offer respite a few times a year. The maximum at Bethany is 14 people, or two to three families. There are enough beds for them in the church's classrooms.
“This is a big commitment, but it has a big impact on the congregation,” Wolfe said. “It helps the church fulfill its mission.”
Sundays are difficult, as the families move to make their overnight homes in another church.
“We miss them when they're gone and have withdrawal the week after,” Wolfe said. “We hope we never see them again, but we hope we see them again.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.