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One Family at a Time
Joyce Duffy Helps Families Find a Home for the Future

June 2016

Joyce Duffy, CEO of Harford Family House

“We can change the future one family at a time,” says Joyce Duffy, CEO of Harford Family House.One can hear the passion in her voice as Duffy, a household name and somewhat of an icon in the non-profit world, describes the people whose lives she has touched and have touched hers. “Homeless families have the same hopes and dreams for their children, the same potential as the rest of us,” she says. “The children sit next to your children in school. All they need is a hand up, and they’ll have a future.”

Duffy, who will be retiring from her eight-year tenure at Harford Family House in June, says she’s proud of being able to be part of the transition of homeless families back into homes of their own. While at Harford Family House, Duffy doubled the capacity of the shelter and added to its services. She led a team of staff people to raise money and garner business support and grants to keep the organization running efficiently. Their efforts have reduced the organization’s dependence on government funding from 70 percent to 16 percent. Duffy says 84 percent of its funding is now attributed to donors, businesses and grants.

The money helps Harford Family House to serve 43-45 families each year. The organization received more than 1,000 calls for support in 2015. “We turned away 1,000 requests for our services last year – one thousand families – due to lack of resources. There is more work to be done,” she states.

Harford Family House’s transitional program provides housing and services up to one year. Disabled clients have no time limit but usually move on in a two- to three-year time frame. Duffy says last year, Harford Family House served 125 individuals, 80 of them children. “It’s amazing how many children there are out there who are homeless,” Duffy says.

To supplement the capacity of Harford Family House, Duffy took part in the One Church, One Home movement, which connects churches with homeless families for support and resources. The churches are asked to supply the monies to fund a home for the family for one year.

Harford Family House began as Holy Family House, an apartment with just one family made up of a single mother and her children. Over time, Harford Family House added apartments and houses and began to rent them in Aberdeen. Today, Harford Family House has the Delle Grove apartment building with 25 apartment units, and 13 houses, along with programs for its residents to help them as they transition back to living on their own. Among them are the Wheels for Work program, which transports clients to their places of employment while they save toward car ownership, a mentoring program for children, and a childcare assistance program that transitions the family to a POC voucher. “These programs remove three of the most difficult barriers to gaining independence,” Duffy explains.

Duffy herself is no stranger to obstacles. A three-time cancer survivor, she admits her biggest personal challenge is keeping in mind her own limitations. “Sometimes I think I can do more than I’m physically able, and my physical limitations slow me down,” she says. Even in retirement, she won’t be slowing down. She plans to remain involved in the non-profit world by starting a consulting business called Bridges Consulting. “I want to be a bridge to what people need. It is my joy to be connecting people – from non-profits to small businesses. I know I can help a lot of people,” she says.

She also plans to continue mentoring young women, saying she believes she can be a resource for them in their careers. “I want to give back to the community and be there when these young women need someone to listen or discuss ideas,” she says. “It’s important for them to have that support.”

Most importantly, Duffy says she will spend time with her family, including husband, Fran, son Adam and his wife Jenny, and their two children, Brayden, 11, and Brooke, 6, and step-children Elizabeth, Adam and Erin, and a third grandchild, Scarlet. I95