Willing hands

The Interfaith Hospitality Network of Northwest Philadelphia is a major volunteer-fueled undertaking.

But it isn’t the first or only volunteer network to serve the homeless; 28 years ago, 11 congregations came together in Union County, New Jersey, to form this type of space-sharing homeless shelter.

Since then, the number of congregations taking part in such efforts has swollen to more than 5,000 in 41 states.  The national umbrella group for these initiatives is known as Family Promise.

The Northwest Philadelphia network became a Family Promise affiliate in 1991, and since joining, by its count, it has moved 275 families from homelessness to stability.

The network includes more than 30 congregations from the area (see list below) that take turns hosting the network’s shelter program, or supplying volunteers.

The Northwest Philadelphia Network offers the basics that any good homeless shelter should – a roof, a bed, a meal. But the Network takes it a few steps further. The focus is on family: The program accommodates intact couples, single father households, adolescent boys, and single women with children. Each family gets a private room. Families have access to phones, computers, a psychologist and a case manager.

Homeless families have to work for their success, though. Classes in budgeting, parenting and stress-management are mandatory. There are in and out curfews. Statistics suggest the approach works: According to the network’s website, 92 percent of families that go through its program don’t return to shelters.

For an audio report and many images of what a typical night in a network shelter is like, watch the audio slideshow below. (Photography by Peter Tobia)

Want to get involved? The Network is hosting its annual benefit, the Empty Bowl Dinner, this Thursday, Nov. 18, at Chestnut Hill College. 

Click here for details on the Empty Bowl Dinner, here for the Network’s website.

Here are the congregations that support the Interfaith Hospitality Network:

Host Congregations

Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting
First Presbyterian Church, Germantown
First United Methodist Church, Germantown
Flourtown Presbyterian Church
Germantown Jewish Centre
Germantown Mennonite Church
Germantown Seventh Day Adventist Church
Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, Mount Airy
Mishkan Shalom, Manayunk
New Covenant Church, Mount Airy
Oak Lane Presbyterian Church
St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill
St Timothy’s Episcopal Church,
Second Baptist Church of Germantown
Unitarian Society of Germantown

Co-Host Congregations

Abington Friends Meeting
Annunciation Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church
Christ Ascension Lutheran Church, Chestnut Hill
Church of the Good Shepherd
Enon Tabernacle Church, Cedarbrook
Falls of Schuykill Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church, Springfield
Germantown Community Presbyterian Church
Germantown Friends Meeting
Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church, Mt. Airy
Jewish Children’s Folkshul
Leverington Presbyterian Church, Roxborough
Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church
Our Mother of Consolation Catholic Church, Chestnut Hill
Roxborough Presbyterian Church
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill
Summit Presbyterian Church, Mt. Airy

Other Supporting Congregations

Cedar Park Presbyterian Church, West Oak Lane
Christ Church – St. Michael’s
Trinity Lutheran Church

Seminary Supporters

Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

School & University Supporters

Arcadia University
Chestnut Hill College
William Penn Charter School

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