Our Story


The story of Family Promise began when our founder, Karen Olson, was rushing to a business meeting and she passed by a woman named Millie who was experiencing homelessness. Karen bought Millie a sandwich, but soon realized that she needed more than just an afternoon meal--she needed to be heard. Karen stayed with Millie and listened. Millie made her understand that homelessness wasn’t just a lack of housing and food, but a diminished sense of self-worth and disconnection from society itself. Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to people experiencing homelessness on the streets of New York.

Our Story


When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew that the community needed to offer more than simply food, or even housing. She brought together people in need with people who wanted to help. Community resources already existed that could provide meals and shelter. Volunteers were readily available who could offer their existing skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.

Karen also approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA was able to provide showers and a family day center. A car dealer discounted a van. The beginnings of our network was born.



As word spread, more New Jersey congregations joined and were inspired to develop similar programs. In 1988, the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) was formed to bring the program nationwide, which would eventually become Family Promise. Our affiliates began developing programs for transitional housing, childcare, and homelessness prevention to supplement the shelter, meals, housing, and job-seeking support that they already provided. Nationally, we added programs like Just Neighbors, an educational program that examines the root causes of poverty, and Family Mentoring, which provides follow-up support for families that have graduated from the program.

In 1992, IHN was awarded a Points of Light award, out of a field of more than 4,500 nominees, by President and Barbara Bush.



We changed our name to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.

Family Promise has come to represent not just the programs that provide real help to 93,000 people in need annually and engage the time and skills of more than 200,000 volunteers nationally. It represents a belief that we can address family homelessness—right here in our own communities.



The Southern Chester County program opened its doors in 2015 in West Grove and in 2017, relocated the Resource Center to Baltimore Pike in Kennett Square to provide services and support for families.