"The moral test of a government is how it treatsthose who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilightof life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, theneedy, and the handicapped,
" said former U.S. Vice-President HubertHumphrey. As the Penn Medicine News Blog continues featuring staff whofollow the same guideline in their own lives, we turn to one employee’s workwith Family Promise InterfaithHospitality Network of Gloucester County
to combat homelessness in theregion.
Not having a roof over your head, knowing where your nextmeal will come from, and/or having insufficient access to proper sanitation isa dangerous reality for the estimated 11,757 homelesspeople in our region, according to the National Alliance to EndHomelessness.
Since 1986, FamilyPromise works to fight these tragic numbers nationwide. Grown significantlyfrom its inception, now 5000 congregations in 41 states comprise 171 networksnationwide. One of those networks started in 2005 in Gloucester County, NewJersey.
Family Promise of Gloucester County offers food, shelter, andvital services to homeless families. When a social service agency, school, orsomeone else reaches out to the director of family promise, they invite thefamily to an intake interview. If the family, (must be a family to beeligible), is a suitable candidate for the program, and pass national,criminal, and sex offender background checks, they are invited back to meetwith the director again to set up a stability plan with a budget, goals foremployment searches, and more. The children stay in the same schools they wouldotherwise attend. If unemployed, during the day, the rest of the family staysin the day center to look for work and housing, as long as the family continuesworking towards the objectives in the stability plan. The strict schedule imposesa curfew on the families also.
The Gloucester County organization works with one paidemployee only and nearly 700 volunteers dedicated to making this group asuccess in improving lives in the region.
The churches provide overnight accommodations for familiesthere. For example, a week-long cycle at Holy Family Church in Sewell, NJ, isquite a through process. Sunday night, they stay in the parish center, wherecots are set up for sleeping. A family from the Parish provides dinner for thehomeless visitors. At 9 pm, two hosts stay overnight with the guests. Each andevery morning, a van picks the families up and takes them to the day center,Family Promise in Glassboro. At the day center, a social worker and director ofthe program give families resume help, child care, parenting skills workshops,help the families find housing, set eligible guests up with Medicaid, and otherservices. This Church does this four times a year for a week at a time.
Sometimes the evening hosts include college or high school students who willassist homeless children with homework or do arts and crafts with them. At theend of the week, they pack up and go to the next church.
The Penn Medicine CAREs grant will be used for needs of theprogram’s guests. This may include medical care, medication, clothes, andrelated needs.
Once a family gets back on their feet and they receivehousing and a job, the Gloucester County group throws them a graduation partywith a small gift to get them started on their way.
“They asked for volunteers at my Church, and I’ve beeninvolved ever since,” said Kris Gallagher, practice manager, division ofplastic surgery, who has volunteered with this organization since it came toher Church five years ago. “The people in the program really want to helpthemselves, and it’s nice to be able to volunteer to help them get to thatpoint.”
About Penn Medicine CAREs
Continuing its commitment to underserved communities, Penn Medicine establishedthe CAREs Foundation Grant Program in January 2012 to support and recognizefaculty, student, and/or staff efforts to improve the health of the communityand increase volunteerism in community-based programs. These programs haveaddressed health disparities, provided care to seniors, administered free medicalcare to homeless in Philadelphia, helped fund medical care for uninsured andunderinsured, and more.
Each quarter, the Foundation awards grants of up to $2000 per project tocommunity and hospital-based programs on behalf of the employee(s) or Perelman Schoolof Medicine student(s) who volunteer their time to support the program. Thefunding is eligible for expenses related to initiatives in community healthimprovement services, health professions education, subsidized health services,cash and in-kind contributions, or community building activities.
For more information and apply, please visit www.Pennmedicine.org/communityand read about the program at the PennMedicine News blog.