child sleepingUPDATE: #NightWithoutABed campaign raises more than $105,550 to fund the Apartment Shelter Project!

May 3, 2020 - We cannot believe the success!  On March 13 congregations were not safe places for our guest families to be, nor for our volunteers to serve.  They closed.  We rented hotel rooms for all eight families on faith, and raised the money in a day to provide the rooms till July 5.

We didn't know what we would do after, and we had to cancel our inaugural bed race fundraiser on May 17. 

The solution?  A #NightWithoutABed event, where volunteers could raise funds together for their teams, culminating on May 2 with a "sleep out" where participants spent a night on a couch, in a tent, in their car--all to raise awareness of what families truly go through daily.

The event was to fund the Apartment Shelter Project.  It was the idea to rent and furnish vacant apartments as temporary shelters.  When congregations re-open, we keep the apartments we could financially sustain, but return to our core shelter program utilizing houses of worship.

More than 500 generous supporters gave, more prayed, so many shared the campaign, and it raised $105,550 (as of 5:00pm on Sunday, May 3, 2020) to fund not just EIGHT apartments, but a bonus NINTH apartment too! 

We especially thank Gene B. Glick & Company and Verkler Construction for sponsoring the campaign.  We thank The Indianapolis Foundation, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation for a $25,000 grant to seed the project.  We thank the Campaign Committee of Joe McDonald (chair), Nancy Hardin, Mitch Katz, Amy Oviedo, Amber Shelton, and Barb Williams.  Last, we thank Providence who provided through each of you.  We are speechless, and grateful, and sincerely humbled.  As the board and staff of the organization, we promise to work hard to it helps as many families as possible, as compassionately as possible, regardless of creed, but rooted in faith...

Because every child deserves a home.


Read below the description of the Apartment Shelter Project drafted by executive director Mike Chapuran on April 2, 2020 at the kickoff of the #NightWithoutABed campaign...

The summary...

April 2, 2020 - Due to COVID-19, the leadership of Family Promise chose to suspend congregation hosting until July 5, 2020, and will use hotels till then thanks to funds already raised.  It will be decided by May 24 if congregation hosting will need to be suspended longer, but we have to approach that decision date acknowledging the real possibility that another model of shelter may be needed till herd immunity is achieved, or a vaccine for that end.  A hotel shelter model, however, is not sustainable for its exhorbitant cost.  To combat the uncertainty of the coming months, the ideal solution must be a plan that 1) maintains or expands shelter capacity while demand for shelter most certainly increases, and 2) allows for the re-opening of congregation hosting at any time.

Family Promise's plan, effective immediately, is to raise funds through the "Night Without a Bed" fundraiser in April 2020, culminating with participants sleeping without a bed in solidarity with those who cannot choose to on May 2.  For every $15,000 raised, an apartment will be rented starting July 1, with the goal to rent eight apartments (i.e., the number of family--eight--that congregations hosted) with 12-month leases.  Each apartment will be furnished by a partner agency.  Each apartment will be used as a 30-to-90-day stay shelter for a family, until they can secure their own permanent housing.  When they do, a new family experiencing homelessness will enter the apartment shelter.  The case manager for the congregation program will serve as case manager for the apartment shelters.  As soon as congregations can return to hosting--whether that be July, October, January, or later, the case manager will return to serving the congregation shelter program.  The total number of rented apartments will be decreased through agreements with landlords as soon as resident families find permanent housing, to allow funding to be freed to hire a part-time case manager to serve the apartment shelter program.  The congregation shelter program will return to be the priority funded program, and the apartment shelter program will continue as long as it can be sustained financially without spending reserves.

At worst, shelter capacity is maintained through the pandemic, and every family given the capability to isolate and socially distance.  At best, shelter capacity is expanded.  Either way, a new and actually economical model of shelter is tested as a national model.


The problem...

In the midst of a pandemic, family shelters are hurting for two reasons.  First, more families with children than ever are calling to get a room.  Second, shelter staff and other families in the shelter have fears of contracting COVID-19, or have extra childcare responsibilities at home, leading many shelters to stop or reduce intakes due to inadequate staffing or inadequate space for social distancing.  Simply put, it means more people need shelter at a time when less shelter rooms are available.  This is especially a problem in Indy where family shelter space was already severely lacking.

Family Promise uses a network of congregations to shelter families in its Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) program, with volunteers providing most of the basic services like food, transportation, laundry, and more.  The congregation shelter program was the opposite of social distancing, so that program was changed on March 13, 2020 to use hotels for families instead of congregations.  All other basic needs were provided while the case management continued, too.  A generous response to an urgent appeal on March 13 raised enough funds to continue serving eight families at a time with shelter and case management till July 5.  Five families have already secured housing of their own, and five new families moved into the hotel to keep the "shelter" full.

We are proud that Family Promise has not had to reduce services or capacity.  However, the hotel cost is not cost effective, so hotels are not a long-term solution.  As we watch the pandemic unfold day by day, there is only uncertainty.


The question…

In uncertainty, you make contingency plans, and ours begins with a question reignited for us by COVID-19: Why do big family shelter buildings even exist, serving tens or even hundreds of people in one location?  Why don't we just rent and furnish short-term apartments around town for families without housing till they get their own lease somewhere else?

The quick answer is cost.  Large family shelters in Indy housing a dozen or more families in one building has got to be more economical.  It serves the most families per dollar invested, right?

We think that century-old assumption is wrong.  We took the cost to rent an apartment, added in case management and other supports, fundraising and overhead expenses, then we extrapolated the budget to cover 14 apartments.

Why fourteen apartments?  Because that is the same room capacity as a local traditional family shelter nearby.  It let us compare the total cost to an existing shelter.


The answer...

The total annual operating cost for renting and furnishing 14 apartments (plus all the other operational/overhead costs) and using them as 30-to-90 day stay shelters was 30% lower than the expenses for a traditional shelter.  We used another shelter’s recent Form 990s (nonprofit tax return) for the comparison.


The reasons...

Where would all the savings come from to make renting apartments more economical than a traditional shelter?  We interviewed other shelter directors to find out.

First, staffing. Big shelter buildings necessitate a community living arrangement with community spaces.  Such living arrangements lead to constant monitoring of behaviors and environment.  Someone is needed to unlock the toilet paper closet.  Someone is needed to ask a family to turn down Spotify music because other families are in the room.  Someone is needed to tell a parent to remain with all their kids at all times (even if one is 16 years old).  Such monitoring leads to hiring staff for first, second, and third shifts--even while everyone is sleeping at 3:00 a.m.

Second, community living requires professional food preparation.  Such food preparation leads to even more investments in ingredients, kitchenware, compliance, certifications, and of course, more staffing.

While the "rent" of a big shelter building is economical, it is more than offset by the increased staffing needed 24/7.

Those personnel and food costs are cut by using an apartment as a shelter by simply asking families to do for themselves that which they would be doing for themselves if living on their own!  If families lived independently in private apartments around town, they regain the dignity of getting their own toilet paper out of the closet, of working overtime and trusting their 16-year old to watch his 5-year old sister, and of cooking their own food (after all, in Indiana, families still receive SNAP benefits—food stamps—while in shelter).

The cost is not the only potential benefit.  Doesn't asking a family, at one of the most stressful points in their life, to live together with a dozen other families at the most stressful time of their own lives, potentially contribute to interpersonal conflict?  We believe so, so renting apartments might reduce shelter dismissals as well for conflicts.

Rent apartments in the name of Family Promise.  Furnish them.  Use them as temporary shelters until a family finds their own home.  When they do, offer the apartment as temporary shelter for another family.  We call the idea the Apartment Shelter Project (ASP).


The plan...

No shelter model is more cost effective than the congregation shelter program with its in-kind facilities and 1,500 dedicated volunteers.  With demand for family shelters so high in Indianapolis, we need to re-open the congregation program as soon as it is safe to do so.  Maybe the coming weeks will show that it will return sooner rather than later (that is our hope!).  But it is also a real possibility that it will not be able to return with consistency and regularity, until a vaccine is developed and/or adequate herd immunity is achieved and sustained.

The Apartment Shelter Project is an actionable stop-gap plan that allows Family Promise to keep serving families.  Here's how: We raise money to rent and furnish as many apartments as we can afford, phased in starting July 1.  The apartments act as 30-to-90-day shelters, each for one family at a time.  When that family finds a permanent home, we accept a new family into the "apartment shelter."  The IHN case manager works with each family to secure childcare, employment/income, housing, and health as usual.  If we raise enough for eight apartments (an ambitious goal, but not absurd), we have not sacrificed any services, because that is what the IHN program serves at congregations.

But what if the IHN program is reopened in July, or October, or January, or April?  We would have funds for apartment shelters, but no case manager, as our case manager would return to serve the families in the congregation shelter program.  Easy fix: We rent fewer apartments and hire a part-time case manager to work with the families in apartment shelters.  Worst case scenario, we maintain shelter capacity serving eight families at a time through apartments.  Best case scenario, we re-open the congregation shelter program and actually thereby increase total shelter capcity during this stressful time for families because of furloughs, layoffs, and other effects of the social distancing.

How long do the apartment shelters continue? We try to sustain the increased shelter capacity with ongoing fundraising, but if the money runs out, we simply let the apartments thanks to flexible leases and return to normal capacity with the congregation shelter program, donating furniture/furnishings to families that secure their own apartments.


The beginning...

We had already planned to begin the Apartment Shelter Project on July 1 with just one unit thanks to a donated apartment from Gene B. Glick Company.  The week of March 30, Central Indiana Community Foundation awarded Family Promise a $25,000 grant to provide all the support costs for the project.

Those gifts can cover two units and some support costs.  An apartment costs approximately $15,000 for a 12-month lease, including rent, utilities, security deposit, insurance, repairs, supplies, and more.  To rent six more units in addition to the two already funded, a perfect goal would be to raise $90,000.  Those eight units would help 64 families over twelve months, or 200-250 people!

The Apartment Shelter Project already has draft operating procedures, insurance, agency partners, and more.  Mustard Seed of Central Indiana committed to furnish the units as much as possible.  School on Wheels committed to provide case management for school navigation to any family there.  The Homeless Initiative Program of HealthNet committed to offer free healthcare to any family in the ASP, as they do currently for families in our existing shelter.


The hope...

"Night Without a Bed" is a fundraiser to achieve all or part of that $90,000 goal.  We will work hard to see that no funds raised are wasted.

In 2020 so far, 82% of the families we have given shelter have secured permanent homes with signed leases.  More than 85% of those families who left successfully in the past two years have not re-entered the shelter system.

In a time when so many families are calling Family Promise for help, we have a proven model to respond to the need.  Thank you for prayerfully considering supporting it in any way you can.

For more information:

  • To make a donation to the fundraising campaign, or to sign up as a participating fundraiser, click here.
  • To see how this project fits into our FY2020-2022 Strategic Plan, read it here.
  • To see our organization’s financial statements and annual reports, click here.
  • For questions about this project, email Michael Chapuran, executive director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

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Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis – 1850 N. Arsenal Avenue – Indianapolis, IN 46218       T: 317-261-1562      F: 317-261-6308

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