Family Promise Cleveland
Family Promise of Greater Cleveland achieves impressive outcomes by customizing its services. It is one of the few homelessness service agencies in greater Cleveland that shelters whole families together.
Better Outcomes Through Flexible Approaches to Homeless Families
According to statistics from the Office of Homeless Services, homelessness among families in Cuyahoga County has risen about 21 percent in the last few years: with 590 families homeless in 2012. Family Promise of Greater Cleveland, a nonprofit created out of a 2011 merger between Interfaith Hospitality Network and New Life Community, served close to 20 percent of them.
About half of these families are helped through Family Promise’s Emergency Shelter Program. It partners with some 60 congregations to provide meals and overnight shelter. During the day the families work with case managers to search for housing and connect with community resources at Family Promise’s Tremont Center. This hybrid model is cost-effective, with the in-kind contributions of partner congregations exceeding $500,000 annually in meals, volunteer time, and other support. An impressive 88 percent of families served in this program exit with “positive housing outcomes,” reports Joan Maser, Executive Director. Positive housing outcomes include moves to permanent housing, transitional or interim housing, and long-term family situations.
Roughly of the other half of families are served through Family Promise’s Interim Housing Program. It houses the families for up to 16 weeks in rent-free apartments while they are assisted by staff in finding permanent housing and employment. 81 percent of the families exited this program with permanent housing and 71 of the participating adults obtained employment upon exit or within one month of exit. “We’re proud of our outcomes,” says Maser—and they should be, since these significantly exceed the national averages for similar efforts as reported by HUD.
Maser says that at the heart of their effectiveness is Family Promise’s nimbleness. “Every family has unique needs, so our programming is not one size fits all,” she explains. “Our staff are creative and they carefully assess the families’ strengths as well as weaknesses. Our curriculum is flexible.”
For example, Family Promise takes an individually customized approach to employment. “We take people where we find them—we don’t assume specific knowledge, or lack of knowledge, in the areas of employment and corporate culture.” Staff provide classroom instruction but also one-on-one coaching “to eliminate specific barriers and challenges to employment.” The organization has built relationships with more than 30 Cleveland businesses to connect clients for employment. “Our philosophy is to work with the families to set their goals, build on their strengths, and emphasize encouragement,” says Maser.
The end goal is to help families maintain housing stability and not return to homelessness. In line with the city’s “Housing First” approach, Family Promise wants to get the families into permanent housing as quickly as possible, then wrap around an assortment of supportive services to help ensure the adults connect to jobs, the children get the childcare or educational support they need, and potential barriers to thriving–like transportation problems—are tackled. This is the heart of their Community Based Case Management program. “We help them get connected to the resources available, help them reestablish relationships with their relatives, just do everything we can that will enable the family to remain stable,” Maser says. And this approach works: 97 percent of the families that received this service are still independently housed a year later.