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Family Promise Comes To Albany

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Founded more than twenty years ago, Family Promise says its mission is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence. The group has landed in Albany and has great plans for needy citizens.

The national Family Promise website displays this vision: a nation in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and the chance to build a better future together.  Currently based on Clinton Avenue, the agency will soon open new facilities with the cooperation of Bethany Reformed Church on New Scotland Avenue, hoping to bring new normalcy to needy citizens.

Mary Giordano is Executive Director of Family Promise of the Capital Region. She says 11 host congregations will assist in providing housing and meals to three to four families, one week at a time, four times a year.   "That adds up to 52 weeks. They will be there from 5:30 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning. They will receive an evening meal, shelter for their families, we'll have volunteers there to help the families, help the kids with homework or read to the children, spend some time with the adults. Now early in the morning, our van will pick them up and bring them to the day center. And we expect the day center to be on New Scotland Avenue at the Bethany Reformed Church parsonage. The pastor actually has a private home and has encouraged us to consider having our program there."

The day center will be the hub of the operation.  "This is where the families will shower, do their laundry, where their children will get their transportation to school. According to New York State law, they have to be provided with transportation to the schools that they are in when they were homeless. The other option of course, is that they can enroll the children in the school district that the day center is in."

The day center will also serve as a legitimate physical address for the adults in the program. The not-for-profit program is funded by private donors.

Not everyone in the community is embracing Family Promise. Joe Sullivan is the longtime president of the Buckingham Pond - Crestwood Neighborhood Association. He says he’d like to see neighborhood residents more involved in the vetting process. The city Board of Zoning Appeals is conducting a hearing on the Family Promise application on March 11th at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Sullivan pines that's the time most people are making their way home from work or sitting down to dinner, and he believes the downtown area is "less than safe after dark."   "Hold a hearing on this in Mater Christi Church. They have a large auditorium space that can accommodate a maximum number of local residents who want to attend, but they're not gonna go down to city hall at 5:30 p.m. and not going to be able to get into a crowded chamber."

Sullivan is petitioning Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the Common Council and Zoning board to take steps to ensure community involvement by citizens living in the neighborhoods surrounding Bethany Church.

Again, Family Promise's Mary Giordano:  "I think that when people really understand the program, that they will welcome it. I don't believe that anyone who is opposed to it truly understands not only the benefits of the program but how they could become involved as volunteers."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.