Karen Olson was rushing to a business meeting when she passed a homeless woman on the street. On impulse, Karen bought her a sandwich.The woman, Millie, accepted the sandwich but asked for something more — a chance to be heard. Karen stayed with Millie and listened. What she heard made her understand that homelessness brought profound feelings of diminished self-worth and disconnection from society. Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to homeless people on the streets of New York.
1986: THE FIRST NETWORK
When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their homeless neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.
She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family Day Center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.
2012: Family Promise Comes to Missoula
Family Promise of Missoula, the 4th Affiliate in Big Sky Country, started when a pastor with experience in Temple TX moved to the area and inquired about starting the program. The first community meeting was held on August 31st, 2009, at the Missoula Alliance Church.
Beginning with 13 hosts, a day center at a Lutheran Church and funding from diverse sources. Three families entered the program with St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church serving as the first host on Mother's Day, May 13, 2012 bringing hope to families experiencing homelessness; to regain their housing, their independence, and their dignity.
2013: Family Promise merges with MIC
In 2013, Missoula Interfaith Collaborative (MIC) formed to strengthen community organizations, generate leaders, and foster meaningful relationships as they act for the common good.
In 2016, Family Promise of Missoula merged with MIC to work together and leverage their strengths.
2019: Family Promise join with YWCA Missoula to build the Meadowlark
In August 2019, the YWCA and MIC broke ground for the Meadowlark to provide critical support and shelter for victims of domestic violence and homeless families.
Family Promise Missoula, since 2012, has served up to 4 families at a time and now, in collaboration with the YWCA, will be able to serve 31 families. Additionally the YWCA will house up to 13 households fleeing domestic violence at the Meadowlark. We, the volunteers, the local congregations, and the community partners, have come together to make a difference.
On Mother's Day, 2021, our Family Promise families spent their first night in the Family Housing Center... a new era for Family Promise Missoula.