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Program provides relief for temporarily homeless families

Imagine having no roof over your head, having to wonder where your next meal will come from and having to wonder where to get money to support your family. Interfaith Hospitality Network of the Main Line is an organization that hosts families that, for some reason, have found themselves in that situation.

“The circumstances at which the family finds themselves homeless is usually unknown to the facilities that host them,” said Ginger Heim, Interfaith Hospitality coordinator for St. Katherine of Siena parish in Wayne.

According to Heim, there are 11 facilities that alternate the responsibility of hosting the families for one week at a time. These facilities include nine churches, one mosque and one synagogue.

The central office is in Norristown and is directed by Candy Shandley. It is a nationwide network with five programs existing in the Philadelphia area. The program has existed for 12 years and was started by Karen Olsen in New Jersey, according to Shandley.

St. Katherine’s had the responsibility of hosting the families the week of October 25.

“There is a lot involved in transporting the families from one facility to the next,” Heim said.

According to Heim, the families came to St. Katherine’s from Wayne Presbyterian Church. The families are usually transported from one facility to the next by a van owned by the organization.

Each facility has a truck that transports the families’ belongings. On the day that the families are transported, the truck brings the belongings first, and then is followed by the van transporting the families.

Each facility is responsible for providing breakfast and dinner to the families. During the day the children are sent to school and the parents are encouraged to look for homes or jobs.

The program also offers parenting classes, money management classes and there is also a child therapist, Shandley said.

Heim explained that different people in the church and community sign up to help with the families. Various people donate food, and there are several people who sign up to be hosts. There are usually two hosts who stay overnight to ensure that nothing goes wrong. There are volunteers who help serve the meals and transport families.

Eastern students have been encouraged to help with the families, and a few students have already volunteered their services.

“Introduction to faith, reason and justice [INST150] requires that students complete 20 hours of community service,” said an Eastern student who is fulfilling her requirements through the program.

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