Only Synagogue in Capital Region to Join Interfaith Initiative for Homeless Families
B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany has launched its new initiative as a support congregation for Family Promise® of the Capital Region, a network of faith communities providing a local response to families that are suddenly homeless.
Family Promise® of the Capital Region (FPCR) is a new chapter of a national organization that for more than 25 years has provided help getting homeless families back on their feet. FPCR serves families who have lost their housing due to a variety of reasons, such as loss of job, reduction of working hours or rising rents.
B’nai Sholom is the only synagogue in the Capital Region participating in this interfaith program.
“Reform Judaism has always emphasized social action as an important component of our religious practice,” said Rebecca Marvin, who co-chairs B’nai Sholom’s social action committee and serves on the FPCR board. “Through our new affiliation with Family Promise, our congregants interact directly with those we are helping. We think it will be meaningful for both them and us.”
Delmar Presbyterian Church in Delmar is a local host congregation that provides meals and overnight accommodations for three to four families for one week at a time, four times a year. B’nai Sholom will serve in a support capacity to the church during the four weeks that it hosts, supplying dinner and companionship two nights each of the four weeks. Congregants will cook and bring dinner to the church, share dinner with guests and then will be available to read to children, provide homework assistance or have a companionable conversation.
When a family loses its housing suddenly, often the only option is to use a shelter that may be segregated by gender.
“A single mother with a 14-year-old son and an 8-year-old son may be told that she and the younger son can go to the women’s shelter but the 14-year-old boy will have to go to the men’s shelter by himself. Family Promise keeps the family together,” explained Gail Volk, who along with Marvin coordinates the synagogue’s volunteers.
Existing social service agencies refer families to FPCR and continue to provide services as necessary. Families are screened to meet FPCR standards: no active drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness. Adults continue to work or seek better employment, and children continue to attend their home schools. FPCR also maintains a day center, which serves as a resource area for families while they move from congregation to congregation on a weekly basis.
Currently, Family Promise® has more than 180 affiliates across the country. As small congregations, neither Delmar Presbyterian nor B’nai Sholom has the resources to support the full four-week commitment on its own, but their partnership allows each to participate in the program.
B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation members Rebecca Marvin (left) and Gail Volk (right) bring bedding and food to Delmar Presbyterian Church to help homeless families supported by Family Promise® of the Capital Region.
Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region. Nearly 130 diverse households from six counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom. For information about B’nai Sholom and the benefits of belonging, visit www.bnaisholomalbany.org or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.