The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an eye-opening experience for a Tualatin-area nonprofit, changing the way it helps families facing homelessness.
Prior to the pandemic, Family Promise of Tualatin Valley, which opened its doors locally in 2019, relied on 18 religious and civic organization to host in either hosting shelter or supporting families with food.
That changed when the pandemic’s shutdown brought the entire congregate shelter model to a standstill.
“When we moved to the hotel model coinciding with COVID, there were a lot of different opportunities for growth,” said Elise Schaff Laubach, fund development manager for Family Promise of Tualatin Valley.
What helped the organization during the pandemic was an infusion of federal CARES funding — money distributed to help businesses and other organizations during the pandemic.
Now the shelter is funded primarily by Washington County Supportive Housing Services, according to Schaff Laubach.
As part of federal requirements, Family Promise expanded its services to include a broader group of those it served, adding families with adult children as well as medically fragile adults and seniors. Pre-COVID, the organization worked entirely with families, with the exception of an expectant mother.
Ultimately, the funding helped Family Promise of Tualatin Valley to expand from serving 15 households to 40. It rents those 40 rooms at a Tigard-area hotel. Those hotel rooms all have kitchenettes to allow families to cook and store meals.
Family Promise also provides a food pantry.
“We do, unfortunately, have a wait list,” said Schaff Laubach. “No matter how we’ve grown, we’ve still not been able to keep up with the need, which is kind of unfortunate.”
In 2021, Family Promise of Tualatin Valley provided 14,342 bed nights of shelter, a number that jumped to 28,369 in 2022.
Families served by the organization typically stay anywhere from three to four months, with case managers tracking their progress.
What many people don’t realize is how few shelter programs there are for families locally and regionally, according to Gina Olson, Family Promise’s engagement coordinator.
Providing housing in the hotel has proved popular because about half of those served by Family Promise of Tualatin Valley don’t have cars.
Family Promise also provides so-called wraparound services, including the ability for sheltered families to meet case managers and have regular access to a food pantry.
Big providers of food include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Lake Oswego stake, as well as the Sunshine Division.
The agency also has “wonderful partnerships with Tigard-Tualatin School District,” said Olson. That means that a case manager is often on-site when Packed With Pride — a weekly food box program housed in school district space — is open.
“One thing about Family Promise is last year our success rate of families that graduate from our program (included) 78 percent moved into (stable) housing,” said Olson.
That “success rate” measures families that are able to stay in stable housing for at least a year after being helped by Family Promise of Tualatin Valley.
“We have up to three families that graduate from the program every week. So, we’re constantly graduating families and then taking new families in,” said Olson.
While the hotel has some office space for Family Promise of Tualatin Valley, the organization still maintains space on property owned by Rolling Hills Church in Stafford.
“That used to be the day center, so the families would sleep in the churches and then go there during the day when it was three or four families in the program,” said Schaff Laubach.
Now it’s office space, where some of the 13 to 14 office staff work.
“Most of our positions are remote where the folks are out in the community or they’re rotating through here or working from home,” Schaff Laubach said.
Schaff Laubach said Family Promise of Tualatin Valley is glad to be able to meet what is obviously a large need in the community.
However, she added, “Even with our growth, we have worked hard to maintain the individualized support to meet the needs of each household on their path to housing.”