IHN of Greater Gainesville

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Focus on Families


Our Response

Two trends are responsible for the rise in homelessness in America-- the growing lack of affordable housing and the rise in poverty. Persons who experience poverty are more likely to experience homelessness. The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade causing families with children to be among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population.

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It is estimated that families with children constitute approximately 40% of people who become homeless. The proportions are likely to be higher in rural areas. Additionally, research indicates that families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas. Stagnating wages and changes in welfare programs account for increasing poverty among families. The Alachua County Homeless Coalition recently estimated that there are 981 homeless individuals in the Greater Gainesville area each day. They estimate that 28% (274 of these people) are homeless members of families, including 16% (157) children.


The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) was created to provide shelter, meals, and comprehensive support to families without homes. IHN unites communities of faith in a collaborative effort to assist homeless families. "Host" churches and synagogues provide accommodations and meals, on a rotating schedule, for three to five families (up to 14 people) for up to four months.

Participating congregations furnish sleeping accommodations and a "hospitality room" where guests relax, socialize, do homework, or watch television. Guests arrive at the host congregation at approximately 5:30 each evening and remain overnight. The host congregation provides the evening meal, breakfast, and a bag lunch. In the morning children go to school and adult guests go to jobs or look for housing. Families are provided with the services of a professional case manager to help them with their quest for employment, housing, and future stability.With a spirit of warmth and hospitality, volunteers in the IHN program provide homeless families

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with the basic human needs of shelter, safety, and sustenance. Congregations become temporary homes in which families are treated as guests and individuals are accepted as they are. In this environment guests are able to maintain their dignity. The kindness of hosts helps to diminish the hurt of homelessness and both volunteers and guests grow and learn from one another.


2003 IHN Interfaith Hospitality Network