“It takes a village to raise up a homeless family,” says Harford Family House Executive Director and CEO Joyce Duffy. For 26 years, Harford Family House has been bringing the village together to surround each homeless family it serves with the resources and support services needed to rise above homelessness and become contributing members of the community.
Homeless families are somewhat invisible in Harford County and easy to overlook, unless you know where to find them – an encampment back in the woods, a car in a big box store parking lot, a cheap motel or a relative’s couch. Homeless families come in all shapes and sizes, from a single parent struggling to make ends meet to a grandmother caring for her grandchild to a two-parent family who lost their jobs and were unable to maintain housing.
Unlike a traditional shelter with shared living spaces, Harford Family House provides each family with its own separate apartment or home. Harford Family House owns an apartment building in Aberdeen with one- and two-bedroom apartments and also owns or rents a dozen or so houses that can be used to accommodate larger families. Because of these individual apartments and homes, Harford Family House is the only organization in the county able to keep a father and teenage boys together with the family while they work toward becoming self-sufficient.
No one can do it alone. Some of the many obstacles faced by homeless families include finding affordable housing, finding childcare, learning to budget, overcoming bad credit, and finding reliable transportation, just to name a few. At a cost of just $25 per night, Harford Family House is able to address these needs and many more. “It’s a really complex, multilayered environment that surrounds each family with support the way an extended family does,” Duffy says. She calls it “the golden ticket” – and families who punch it have one year of housing “and everything you need surrounding you.”
Provides emergency and transitional housing and support services to homeless families.
Donations and volunteers are welcome.
Donated items needed include daily living supplies such as toiletries.
Tickets are available now for the Birds Ball on Aug 29.
One year sounds like a long time, but in reality one year can go by before you know it. Families have to take responsibility for using this golden opportunity to change their future. They are held accountable for setting and meeting goals, and there is a three-strike policy. Families who are not willing to put in the hard work can strike out.
To help families along the way, Harford Family House has established partnerships with many members of the local village. For example, on learning that one client mother had been walking four miles with two small children from HFH to the children’s daycare, then walking three miles to her part-time job at a local florist, and then reversing this trek at the end of the day, Jones Junction gave her a car – and with her new wheels and the time saved, the mom promptly landed a second job.
Some other partnerships include:
• Local churches or organizations adopt an apartment, and volunteers provide a variety of support, from just listening to giving someone a ride to the doctor’s office.
• Other churches or businesses take on the financial responsibility for supporting an apartment or home for a set period of time.
• Dozens of local organizations meet the many and varied needs of the families including mental health services, job training, credit repair, financial literacy and others.
• Individual volunteers serve as mentors, help residents obtain a GED, collect supplies such as personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies and more.
• A local foundation provided a grant to help mothers pay for childcare since they need it the first day they start work, but it may be a few weeks before they get a paycheck.
• A Boy Scout created and helps to tend vegetable gardens out back to help the residents learn to grown their own produce.
• Through the Wheels for Work program, residents learn to drive in preparation for getting a car of their own.
The list of the many partnerships goes on and on. It takes all of the pieces working together to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of families. Most of all, it takes a family that is ready, willing and able to start working toward permanent housing the day they move in to Harford Family House. Affordable rental housing is not readily available, and it can take a year or more for a family to find the place they will eventually be able to call home.
Even with the low cost of services (just $25 per night for shelter, resources and support) and the many volunteers and donated items and services, Harford Family House must rely on fundraisers throughout the year to support the programs. Some of these fundraisers are put on by other businesses or organizations. For example, recently Keller Williams was able to raise $13,000 to buy supplies needed to spruce up the buildings of Harford Family House – and then provided the volunteers to paint, landscape, mulch and do some minor repairs.
In addition to the many fundraisers done by others, Harford Family House is supported by four signature events. In the spring, Harford’s Most Beautiful Baby Contest, an online contest that garners over 100,000 votes, is a fun event that also helps make young families aware of the need in the county. Homeruns for the Homeless, which this year took place on July 28, lets people live their dream of hitting a homerun at Ripken Stadium by taking 15 swings while they’re featured on the scoreboard. Last year, a gala marked the 25th anniversary of HFH, and it was so popular that it will be repeated this year as the Birds Ball, with Ravens and Orioles themes, on Aug. 29.
|Harford Family House
53 E. Bel Air Ave.
Aberdeen, MD 21001
One of the most popular annual events is the annual Hope in Handbags Purse Auction and sale. Donations of brand-new and gently used purses – some stuffed with goodies such as chocolates and jewelry – are auctioned. This year the event is scheduled for Sept. 11 and 12 at the Bel Air Armory. Each of these events usually raises about $20,000. But Duffy is still in shock over the success of the anniversary gala that raised $103,000, a feat she hopes to repeat with the Birds Ball.
The community, she says, recognizes the good work that HFH does, and also wants these families to become independent and set an example for their children. “What we do here is to become a family to the families – we are a social services organization, but we are so much more than that, “Duffy says. I95