HEARTH

hearthlogo_484_tag

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.

 

 

Extravagant Love Makeover

Prior to my time in Pittsburgh I spent a few years working with an organization that provided respite care for homeless men and women in Washington, D.C. Most would come in broken, and hurting by a life lived on the streets.   Not infrequently, within a few days of receiving care, a new look would come across their faces.

Major problems don’t get solved in one day or even in a few weeks. But being cared for and the recognition that you are loved, can go a long way towards changing an attitude of hopelessness into a belief that more may just be possible. This is an approach that Denise Grave’s Extravagant Love Makeover Project has embraced by showering its participants with a day of attention, care, and, yes, love. Most of the big problems will still remain, but have no doubt: one day can indeed have a lasting impact for good.

What does Extravagant Love do?

On the surface, the Extravagant Love Project is a day of pampering each November for women who are in the midst of experiencing the most difficult sets of circumstances that life can throw at them. Women from shelters throughout the city are paired with volunteers who give them treatment that rivals the most luxurious spas in town. They spend the afternoon receiving manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, a new hairdo, and a new outfit. After this, they are whisked to a lavish ceremony hosted by the Pittsburgh Project, complete with dinner and a fashion show that allows the women to be the stars of the evening.

Where the Extravagant Love Makeover really makes its impact is in the genuine love with which these services are shared. It’s hard to really grasp the impact of what being made to feel special means to a person who’s life circumstances have put her in a place where she often ignored or rejected by the people around her.

The project’s founder, Denise Graves, works to make sure that all participants are the recipients of unconditional love throughout the day. Volunteers are prepped with training in regard to some of the how’s and why’s of homelessness, and are encouraged to allow natural friendship to grow as they remind the women that they are indeed loved.

 Why do they do it?

Ms. Graves makes it clear that the Extravagant Love Makeover is the outflow of her faith in God and the love that she has received. Each of us has a story, and we truly have no idea what another person has gone through to lead her to the place that she is in life now. Even at our very lowest points, our stories are not over. As long as there is life there can be hope. Often it takes some real encouragement and a tangible expression of love to begin believing that.

Ms. Graves notes that so many of the messages we hear in the present day tend to break things down into categories of “us” and “them.” But with the Extravagant Love Makeover, volunteers are looking to embrace what she calls “the power of we”. We are all made in God’s image. We are all important, and we all deserve to be recipients of love.

 How can you help?

With regards to immediate help, the needs are primarily financial. It takes a lot to organize this special day for the 100+ women who will have love lavished on them this November. The outfits, jewelry, and the full spa treatment are costly. If you are moved to help, donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated.

In the long term, there is a vision of growing the Extravagant Love Project here in Pittsburgh and in other cities. A plan for maintaining the relationships through ongoing friendships between the participants and volunteers is being developed. Conference weekends are being planned to help prepare volunteers and spread the vision to other locations.

To learn more, I’d recommend visiting the organization’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Extravagant-Love-Makeover-894707130599900/?fref=ts

You can reach out through their message button to find out about volunteering with, or donating to, this 501c3 organization.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/109855364″>Extravagant Love Makeover | Our Stories</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/savisky”>Michael Savisky</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>