Have I mentioned lately what an encouragement it is to work on this blog? Nearly every week I meet with and learn about people who recognized a need and worked at creating a plan to meet that need. Some of these organization are small – just starting out – while others are well-established here in the area. Some focus on a niche need, while others confront huge problems with the hope of making lasting changes. HEARTH probably fits better into that latter category. They have a beautiful, clean, multi-building campus in the North Hills where they work to live up to the acronym from which their name is derived. Homelessness Ends with Advocacy, Resources, Training, and Housing.
HEARTH is categorized as transitional housing. They provide apartment, sometimes for as long as two years, for families. These families are almost always headed by a female who is either homeless or fleeing domestic violence situation. This service alone would be a worthwhile mission. A huge percentage of shelters and long-term transitional programs are set up for single adults, but what happens when there are one, or two, or even four children who find themselves in the same situation as their adult caregiver? To provide a safe, clean location for the entire family to remain together while Mom takes the steps necessary to return them all to a place of stability is exactly what is needed.
And that is what you’ll find at HEARTH Yes, there are 20 fully-furnished apartments categorized as transitional housing available to families in need. But as the organization seek to fulfill its stated purpose HEARTH’s program provides so much more than just shelter from the storm. Program participants have to be motivated to become self-sufficient. Weekly case management meetings help the head of the family plan and then achieve the necessary educational and vocational training for lifting the family out of poverty. Additionally, regular life skills classes at the facility provide a variety of other types of training that is important for leading a family that will thrive.
The facility itself contains all the amenities that help create both a home while living there and success one it become time to move on. On the grounds there is a learning center, childcare room, playground, and sports court for the kids, while the head of household has access to a computer lab, exercise room, food pantry, clothing closet, and a little store for paper products, toiletries, and the like. HEARTH goes to great lengths to feel like a home and not a shelter. While there are some rules and restrictions for the safety of everyone in the program, participants are free to come and go as they seek to establish, or reestablish, a normal life for themselves and their children.
Since the program’s founding in 1998, they have seen unquestioned success. 84% of their families have gone on to permanent housing, 75% to full-time employment; 88% increased their educational levels, and 89% increased their income. when you consider the fact that these numbers also represent children who’s circumstances have improved because of what HEARTH offers, it’s easy to see why this program has such a strong reputation.
Want to help?
HEARTH provides a variety of opportunities for volunteer help. Things like providing transportation, mentoring, teaching a life skills class, organizing one of the pantries, and joining a committee to help with event planning are just some of the available options for individuals or groups. To learn more, please head over to the organization’s website and fill out the prospective volunteer’s form.
Both in-kind and financial donations are also accepted and greatly appreciated. If you’re considering an in-kind gift, please coordinate through the following link to make sure the items are appropriate and timely. Financial gifts are always appropriate and timely, but perhaps now more than ever. Starting in 2017, HEARTH will lose about 420K in federal funding because Allegheny Country is no longer directing that money towards transitional housing. So if you are able to give, or especially if you are able to advocate for transitional housing, please connect with HEARTH so that those resources can be best utilized.
Finally, HEARTH hold four major fundraising events throughout the year as a means of promoting their mission and raising money to maintain the program. The next event will be Hops for HEARTH, a beer-tasting event held downtown in April. Ive been assured that it is both a good time and serves a good purpose. Please consider attending, becoming a sponsor, or helping out if April 16th is free on your calendar.