The Interfaith Hospitality Network of the Main Line enables volunteers from local congregations and the broader community to provide compassionate, temporary shelter for homeless families. IHN’s programs and services connect families to resources, empowering them to achieve and maintain affordable housing.
In 1989 an interfaith group of concerned citizens interested in helping homeless families met with Karen Olson, the founder of the first Interfaith Hospitality Network (now called Family Promise), to discuss the possibility of creating an IHN along the Main Line of Philadelphia. After two years of careful planning, they established the Interfaith Hospitality Network of the Main Line (IHN – Main Line) to provide services to homeless families and formed a network of congregations to provide shelter, meals, and hospitality to these families.
Rev. George Hollingshead led this group as the first Board Chairperson. He had the help of Rev. William Cherry, Vice-Chairperson; Paul Lichtman, Treasurer; Joe Betz, Secretary; Anne Pilgrim, Executive Director; and many more volunteers who worked together to make their vision a reality.
IHN – Main Line became incorporated in November 1991, and we received our non-profit status in June 1992. Our first host congregations included: Ardmore Presbyterian Church, Ardmore United Methodist Church, Beth David Reform Congregation, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Central Baptist Church, Our Mother of Good Counsel, St. John Neumann Church, and St. Thomas of Villanova Parish.
On May 3, 1992, Sister Anne Woodeshick opened the doors of Our Mother of Good Counsel’s school for the first homeless family we served, a mother and her two daughters. All went well that first night and all these years later Our Mother of Good Counsel and our current host congregations are still opening their doors to homeless families and providing them with a safe place to sleep and have a good meal.
It does not stop there. Back in 1993 Anne Pilgrim said, “I was talking to someone who had been in a nice shelter. I asked if this is a nice shelter and she said, ‘This is not a shelter. This is an up-and-out place.’ And that’s what we want to be here. We will push you and push you and push you….”
That continues to be the philosophy of IHN – Main Line today. As it states in our mission, we use the energy of community volunteers to assist families who seek to be accountable, resilient, and strive for a better tomorrow for their families. The objective of our core program, now called the Network Self-Sufficiency Program, is not only to provide shelter for the night but also to give our families the building blocks they need to become permanently self-sufficient.
Over the years we have provided other programs to homeless families. In 2010 and 2011 we partnered with the Salvation Army to assist three families in a Transitional Housing Program. And then again in 2011 we transferred the 3rd floor apartment in our Day Center to an interim housing unit to be used by graduate families of our Network Self-Sufficiency Program. It continues to provide short term housing to families.
In 2013 we began our Housing for Success Program providing stable housing to families as they pursue an advanced skill or education degree. We believe education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty and this program provides stable housing for a family as they gain the education they need to lift them out of poverty.