Family Promise has a big impact on the community

Family Promise of Lycoming County helps people get back on their feet, providing shelter, meals and case management for those without homes.

The organization, started in 2010, partners with local churches to help provide much-needed support for individuals and families.

Executive Director Jenny Hull said Family Promise is a privately funded group helping some 500 people annually.

“We don’t take government funding,” she said.

Many people, she noted, become homeless through no fault of their own.

Those accepted into the program work with case managers to set goals, find jobs, secure childcare and other services.

People are referred to Family Promise often through social service organizations.

The Family Promise headquarters, at 635 Hepburn St., is a day center where individuals and families can dine, socialize and take part in other activities.

“They go to the churches at night and sleep,” Hull said. “There are 23 different churches affiliated with us. We have over 900 volunteers with us annually.”

Hull said Family Promise is a place for homeless people to get back on the path to life by learning skills that will help them become successful.

Classes include budgeting, life skills, cooking, health and wellness, and child care.

Hull said many people don’t realize that Lycoming County has its share of the “hidden homeless.”

“You don’t see the person living in the box in Williamsport,” she said.

Rather, the hidden homeless can be the person who walks around all day and night and seeks shelter in places such as laundromats.

Hull should know.

She has her own story of homelessness after her husband kicked her and her two children out of the house.

At the time there was nowhere for homeless people to go in Williamsport.

“Someone loaned me $500 for an apartment,” she recalled.

She eventually worked her way through college, earned her degree and took her first job at Family Promise as a caseworker.

Her own experience gave her valuable insight into what homeless people face.

“We are holistic in the recovery of homelessness,” she said. “We are available to help people change their lives.”

She noted the many volunteers who help Family Promise operate.

Helen Heintzelman volunteers two hours a week at the day center answering phones.

She said it’s her way of giving back to the community.

Brenda (who did not give her last name) found herself with Family Promise after being tossed out of her home by a relative.

She said the people she spends time with are what makes Family Promise special.

Plus, she said she has everything she needs there.

“I thought it was just another old shelter,” she said.