Family Housing Network [FHN] is a housing program of Catholic Community Services (CCS) Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington that serves families throughout the region who are homeless.
As FHN works to help secure permanent housing for these families, they also coordinate short-term shelters through partnerships with faith-based organizations like Saint Patrick Catholic Church and School. Our parish along with other local churches such as All Saints Parish, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Fircrest UMC, St. Andrew Catholic Church, Urban Grace-The Downtown Church and more.
Hosts offer temporary shelter to a maximum of five families at a time, while case mangers develop permanent housing plans with each family. They utilize Catholic Community Services’ Day Center facilities for showers and laundry. Rotating host churches and schools participate in the evenings by providing dinner, sleeping accommodations, and breakfast.
Overnight hosts are especially needed! Share the journey and answer the call to serve and help our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
What Does ‘Hosting’ Families Entail?
The host community commits to dates when they will host 4-5 families for a one-week period. Family sizes vary from a single parent with one child to two-parent families with 4-5 children and every combination in between. Generally, maximum size is 25 individuals. Hosts secure and prepare a location, for us it is our Parish Center, provide a warm meal each evening; eat and visit with the families; stay overnight and help with breakfast the next morning. Families depart for the day by 7:30 A.M. and return in the evening between 5:30-6:30 P.M.
Personally, I learned a great deal about myself and about our role as a parish. I found that when certain expectations and judgements are set aside they are replaced with a peaceful recognition that we are all God’s children and while we cannot necessarily solve the crisis these families are in, we can do our part by extending our hands and opening our doors, both figuratively and literally. Having a safe place to rest your head at night is one thing, but having it accompanied by acceptance, compassion and generosity adds something that money can’t buy.Volunteer at Saint Patrick Catholic Church Host Site
I Want to Help! What Can I Do?
There are a variety of ways and days for you to volunteer – just let us know which one works best for you! Look for your Host Coordinator to contact you 2-3 weeks prior to the hosting date.
- Site Prep Volunteer Volunteers are needed for about an hour early Saturday morning to help set up folding beds and move furniture like couches and tables.
- Food Donation Volunteer Food donations are needed to stock the kitchen for the week. Sign up to donate a loaf of bread, a gallon of orange juice, cereal, fruit, or snacks. All you need to do is ensure the donation you sign up for is delivered by Saturday morning.
- Evening Meal Volunteer Lasagna, meatloaf, spaghetti; whatever your specialty is; pick an evening and sign up to deliver a warm main course, salad or side dish for 15-20 people in time for dinner at 6:30 P.M.
- Evening Host Volunteer Evening Hosts arrive around 5:30 P.M. to set up for dinner, eat and visit with families after dinner. If you have children, bring them!
- Overnight Host Volunteer Overnight Hosts arrive at 8:00 P.M. and leave by 7:30 A.M.the next morning (or 8:30 A.M. on Sundays). Overnight Hosts visit with and make sure families have what they need to be comfortable for the evening; be available in case of emergency; enforce rules as needed; secure the site at the designated time; set up breakfast; and ensure families are ready to depart the site by 7:30 A.M. (or 8:30 A.M. on Sundays).Overnight Hosts must be current with Safe Environment Training.
- Site Clean-Up Volunteer Volunteers are needed for an hour early Saturday morning to help clean up the site which includes moving furniture, vacuum and wash linens.
What Training Classes Do I Need to Attend? What Forms Do I Need to Complete?
Adult volunteers who will be interacting with families are asked to complete a CCS volunteer application; the VIRTUS volunteer requirements forms; CCS disclosure and confidentiality statements; and undergo a background check (at no cost to you and Social Security Numbers are not collected). All forms and instructions will be provided to you by the Host Coordinator. Overnight Hosts are required to be current with Safe Environment Training. If you have questions about your status or would like to enroll for a Safe Environment Training class let the Host Coordinator know as soon as possible.
What Should I Expect From the Families? What Should the Families Expect From Me?
Families participating in the FHN program have met screening criteria as well as a criminal background check; and have agreed to program guidelines and host site expectations prior to arriving (e.g. site timeframes, curfews and chores).
It’s important to remember that these families are in crisis and under stress. Hosts should not expect perfect parenting or overwhelming gratitude. And while some families may be eager to engage in conversation, some may not. Sometimes parents just need a break and hosts spend more time engaging with the children, helping with homework, playing indoor and outdoor games or watching movies.
Simply put, your role as a host is to provide a welcoming and warm place and the role of the families is to honor and respect the host site guidelines.
I'm interested in serving!
Kathryn Hedrick, Host Coordinator