Family Promise Builds a Sustainable Future for Homeless Families

Buying a sandwich for a homeless woman on a New York City street was a life-changer for Karen Olson.

More than 30 years later, the initiative Olson started after that simple exchange of kindness and conversation has helped over 700,000 people in 47 states. Olson will never forget the humble beginnings of the organization she founded, now called Family Promise.

That initial interaction in the early 1980s became a regular routine, she said.

“Sandwiches became a vehicle to show that we cared,” Olson told Everyday Heroes Radio.  “[The homeless] were hungry for food, but they were more hungry to see that we really cared for them.”

At the time, Olson worked at a marketing firm. But she began spending her extra moments caring for homeless individuals and, more increasingly, homeless families. She didn’t feel equipped to do it, but she did it anyway.

“I’m not a social worker. I don’t have a degree in nonprofit management,” Olson said. “What difference could I make?”

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Family Promise now has 2,002 affiliates across the country working to help homeless individuals and families achieve a sustainable home and independence. They do this in a number of ways, involving everyone from social workers to mentors to the wider community to help their participants succeed.

But how do they do this? Find out on this week’s Everyday Heroes Radio with Jodi Carroll.

To donate to this incredible initiative, please visit

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