A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Family Promise of NKY resumes its mission of keeping families together, giving them a fresh start

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A Northern Kentucky nonprofit that gave families a fresh start for 20 years recently experienced a rebirth of its own.

Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, which ceased operation in 2014 due to financial struggles, is once again working with Northern Kentucky churches to offer shelter and stability to struggling families.



Family Promise Executive Director Amanda Speier said the goal is to keep families together and help them transition back to a traditional living arrangement. Families are not supposed to spend any money while they are in the program, which typically runs for 90 days.

“If they need clothing or diapers for kids, we should be helping with that,” Speier said. “We want them to save their money so when they do move out, they have a cushion. We love our families and our guests, but we don’t to see them back here; we want to see them thriving.

Family Promise, which operates as a day center, is located on West Ninth Street in Newport in the same building that previously housed the organization.

“Families are here with us from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then are transported by a mini bus that is on loan from Latonia Baptist Church,” Speier said. “They go back to whatever host church is on the rotation.”

The rotation includes 10 host churches (the goal is 13) in Boone Kenton and Campbell counties that provide overnight shelter and meals for the families in the program. Another 25 churches provide support services for the hosts.

Speier said it was really the participating churches that pushed to reopen Family Promise.

“We’ve been blessed because a lot of the churches that were on board previously have stayed on board,” Speier said. “They coordinated meetings and said ‘hey, we want this to continue, we believe in this mission and we believe in the work we are doing.’”

From that, a small committee and a small board of directors, which has now grown to 11 members, were formed. The organization is still recruiting board members and volunteers for its recruitment committee, which enlists churches to become host or support members.

Speier was working as director of programs for the Center for Independent Living Options in Cincinnati, but was looking for a change, when she heard about the Family Promise position. Her goal is to give back to the social work profession and sees this as an opportunity to more directly impact the lives of families.

The staff currently consists of Speier, case worker Amber Pegg, who is part time, and about 300 volunteers, who provide a range of services.

Family Promise logo

Before Family Promise closed its doors, the organization had about 1,000 volunteers and Speier would like to get back to that level, but knows it will take time.

Family Promise is a national organization, but the Newport day center is the only location in Kentucky.

Speier said she was given two small banker’s boxes when she came on board and not much information about why Family Promise shut down was shared with the national organization.

“We are going in blind, but we are offering a fresh start to the community,” Speier said. “We have a lot of relationships to repair with our funders. People want to know why we didn’t sustain but we don’t know, so all we can do is try to assure them that it won’t happen again.”

It took a lot of work just to make the day center, which was basically a shell of a building, functional again. There are still plenty of ongoing needs (see list), but the building has most of the essentials, included work spaces, play areas and toys for children and a dining area, that allow it to fill its purpose.

“Everything in this building has been gifted to us or donated to us,” Speier said. “It’s a neighbor-helping-neighbor movement.”

Family Promise opened its doors on June 18 and is already at capacity. The program can accommodate up to four families or 14 people, whichever comes first.

A list of donation items currently needed by Family Promise of Northern Kentucky (click to enlarge).

A list of donation items currently needed by Family Promise of Northern Kentucky (click to enlarge).

Typically, referrals are placed on a waiting list that already includes six families, which can range from 90 to 20 days.

When a spot is coming available, Pegg will call a family and schedule a pre-intake interview. She said some families are just not a fit.

“It’s a big self-help program,” Pegg said. “We give you the tools and resources, but you have to be willing to learn how to navigate those and take charge of your life. We ask the family to think about it and be sure they are ready to come into shelter after we tell them how the program operates and to call us back in a day or two.”

There is a common misconception that families in shelter life are irresponsible or the parents are suffering from some form of addiction. Speier emphasized that Family Promise clients are drug free people who just need help getting back on their feet.

The first family accepted into the program,Brandon and Cassondra Vornberger, are a young Florence couple who went into shelter life to keep their blended family together.

Transitions Inc. provides drug testing and applicants who test positive for drugs or alcohol are not permitted to enter the program. A background check is also conducted and those with an extensive criminal history are excluded.

“It’s a family environment and we have other families here and a huge pool of volunteers, so their safety is our number one priority,” Speier said.

Day one includes an introduction to shelter life and intake process, which involves signing releases and getting the family prepared for what will happen in the coming weeks.

FAmily PRomise has resumed operations in the same Newport location where services were previously administered.

Family Promise of NKY has resumed operations in the same Newport location where services were previously administered.

“We let them settle in a little bit, because we don’t want to pressure them with case management on day one,” Pegg said. “It’s really just learning what their needs are, so we can make a game plan, moving forward.”

A host book with some of the basic family information is passed along to churches, so volunteers are aware of any medical needs or other pertinent information.

Once clients are acclimated to living in a shelter with other families, they are not at the day center much. They are out looking for employment or housing and working toward sustainability, while the kids are in school or day care. The goal is to have the family into a stable home, with the financial resources and life skills to stay there.

“We meet the family where they are and we can’t determine what their needs are by looking at them, we need them to tell us,” Speier said. The primary goals are housing, employment and education, but if parents want to get back into school or a trade program, we help them navigate those systems or find the funding to do so. It even goes as far as obtaining health care services and the typical benefits someone would need if they are living under the poverty level.”

Speier’s goal is to expand Family Promise to serve a wider clientele.

“We need another day center and we want to serve the counties that are bordering ours because we are the only Family Promise in the state,” she said. “Eventually, we’d like to get some permanent or transitional housing programs so we can make sure these families will be stable when they leave us.”

For more information about Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, or to make a donation or become a volunteer, call 859-360-0905, or email amberpegg@nkyfamilypromise.org .

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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