The Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network (Salem IHN) is a response to the growing need to provide shelter, meals, assistance, and compassion to families without homes. Salem IHN is an affiliated Family Promise organization, an organization founded in 1986 in Union County, New Jersey. Salem IHN became the 59th Network in the country when it opened its doors in May, 1999.
Salem IHN seeks to unite the religious community in its efforts to assist homeless families in Salem and the surrounding area. Currently, Salem IHN consists of 14 Host faith communities and 17 Support faith communities. The Hosts donate their space to house homeless families overnight for one week, every three months on a rotating basis. Support faith communities offer additional volunteers and supplies to assist a nearby Host. Each morning, our guests are transported by van to the Day Center where the Case Manager works with them to find permanent solutions and help them regain their independence. The families are refered to agencies providing support in health care, job training and other services that work to solve underlying causes of homelessness.
Salem IHN volunteers provide homeless families with basic human needs–shelter, safety, and sustenance–with a spirit of warmth and hospitality. Local congregations provide temporary “homes” in which families are treated as guests of the congregation. In this environment, guests can maintain their dignity and self esteem. The kindness of hosts can help alleviate the hurt and alienation of homelessness, and both volunteers and guests can grow and learn from each other.
While Salem IHN cannot solve all the problems of homeless families, the support provided by caring volunteers and staff can make a traumatic time easier for the families served. It can give guests the help they need to begin to solve their problems. And, it can give them hope and comfort as they work to regain their independence.
The IHN program provides an ideal solution for family homelessness because it is easily replicable but also flexible enough to address the needs of each community. Family Promise provides extensive support during the creation of the program and a wide-range of ongoing services to Affiliates currently in operation.
There are five key components to Salem IHN.
Hosting rotates weekly among the 14 host congregations in our network. In turn, each host congregation provides lodging, three meals daily, and hospitality. Support Congregations assist the Hosts.
2. Day Center
Guests use our Day Center from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, where the case managerworks with families. There, guests pursue employment, tend pre-school children, shower, and do laundry. The day center provides guests with a mailing address and a base for housing and employment searches. Many guests are employed during the day, and older children attend school.
Volunteers are the heart of the program. They can share their time and talents in many ways, usually just for a few hours every three months.
- Cooking and serving meals
- Playing with children and helping them with homework
- Staying overnight with guest families
- Providing specialized services, like resume writing or financial counseling
- Just being there for children and their families, showing them compassion and respect, and sharing a sense of community
4. Social Service Agencies
Local social service agencies refer families to Salem IHN. The agencies also help guests find housing, jobs, and benefits. We work closely with local agencies and organizations to provide the multiple supports our guests need.
The Salem IHN van transports guests to and from the day center.