A promise given, a promise kept

‘Family Promise’ provides hope for families experiencing homelessness



Volunteeers with Family Promise of the Palouse prepare beds in a local church for families experiencing homelessness in Moscow, Idaho.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen news editor

Based in Moscow, Family Promise of the Palouse provides housing, meals and hope for families experiencing homelessness in Whitman and Latah counties. 

In Family Promise’s day center, families use household amenities like showers, nurseries and laundry rooms. The day center also provides computers, so families can work on resumes throughout their job searches. 

Executive Director Janine Rivera said case management is another unique component of Family Promise. Families meet weekly with their case managers to establish a family plan with goals they need to accomplish. 

“We provide them a hand up, not a handout,” Rivera said. “We meet our families on some of the worst days of their lives, and we provide hope, community and dignity.”

Family Promise will continue to provide hope for its families by hosting its annual online fundraiser, Family Promise Week. The event will run will run Oct. 24-31, ending at 12 a.m.

Donations will go toward providing child care, household supplies and hosting families in shelter for a week. Community members can visit Family Promise of the Palouse’s website to make donations. In December, the organization will host its Avenues for Hope campaign to provide housing for families in need. 

Family Promise also works with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which uses congregations in Whitman County to supply overnight shelter and meals for families experiencing homelessness. 

Coordinator and volunteer Sue Nelson said it is amazing to see volunteers who are so dedicated to the cause. At her church, the Community Congregational United Church of Christ, volunteers make meals and serve as evening hosts. Families gather at the church to play board games and read with children. 

Nelson said it is fulfilling as a volunteer to witness the difference between a family when they entered the three-month-long program and when they left the program with employment and housing.

“You can really see them coming together as a family and looking forward to the future,” Nelson said. 

Rivera began her career at Family Promise as a volunteer, and she said volunteers are essential in this organization’s operations.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. They’re the ones that come in and lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. They’re the ones that keep us going,” Rivera said. 

Family Promise of the Palouse also employs a “calming fluff ball” as a volunteer, Rivera said. A dog named Kevin the Newfoundland helps families who suffer from trauma and mental illness, and the children adore him. Rivera said a young girl in the program even started baking and selling dog biscuits inspired by Kevin.

“Kevin absolutely loved being the taste tester,” Rivera said with a laugh. 

Rivera said it is rewarding to see the visible relief on families’ faces once they realize they are finally safe. After experiencing rejection and a lack of resources, families enjoy moments of normalcy at Family Promise of the Palouse. 

When Rivera first started her job as an executive director, she worked with a single mother and her three children who faced homelessness. 

As Rivera drove with the family to a congregation for dinner, a Jennifer Lopez song came on the radio, and the three children started singing along, prompting their mother to sing with them. 

“Whenever we get to actually witness those loving and tender moments of just a little bit of normalcy, it’s so rewarding,” Rivera said.