As wages fail to climb at the same rate of housing and living costs, more local families are finding it increasingly difficult to bounce back after experiencing financial distress. Without help, parents are at greater risk of prolonging cycles of poverty, and their children are not immune either.
This summer between May and September, 40 families arrived at Harvest House ready to find hope, 13 which moved into the Home Again program, the only permanent supportive housing solution of its kind in the county. 27 of the families accessed emergency shelter and 25 were supported with transitional housing after shelter.
Each has a unique story, ranging from a single dad with newly awarded custody of his teenage daughter to a single mother that grew up in foster care and has a history of substance abuse. One thing remains in common—they’re all looking ahead to a better life.
“Harvest House threw me the first baby shower I ever had,” says Krystal, a resident of Harvest House’s Lee Wetherington Family Village.
At 19 years old, with a young child and another one on the way, Krystal had no stable support system to turn to. She had grown up with five siblings, bouncing between various shelters, motels and couches. Through all this she managed to become a full-time Certified Nursing Assistant, but her income was not enough to get by.
Krystal joined the Harvest House family 18 months ago after reaching out for help.
“Harvest House believed in me when everywhere else was a dead end. I know that my family is loved here.”
Harvest House’s contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development partially funds Home Again for families who meet HUD’s chronically homeless definition, but the need for housing and support for families like Krystal’s who don’t meet HUD’s definition is greater than ever. According to the recent ALICE Report, 40% (129,056) of all households in Sarasota-Manatee struggle to pay for basic needs like food and housing.
The Lee Wetherington Family Village fills this gap. With its 18 apartments, the Village serves 12 families who don’t meet the HUD definition of chronically homeless and 9 unaccompanied homeless youth ages 18 to 24 in Harvest House’s newest transitional living program, New Heights. Of the 13 families that entered Home Again this summer, 5 did not meet HUD’s definition.
More still needs to be done, but the hard work is not going unnoticed. The programs were reinforced this summer thanks to a $300,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation in August.
“The issues facing homeless families are complex. It is with support from the Barancik Foundation that we can continue offering service-enriched housing,” says Erin Minor, Executive Director of Harvest House.
Recently, Krystal was approved for an apartment that she could afford herself in the Bradenton area. Because many funding sources do not cross county lines, Harvest House is paying her first month’s rent to help ease the burden.
“Every moment, life-changing encounters are taking place at Harvest House. People are finding family, safety, and hope right here. Sometimes, for the first time in their life,” says Minor.