For a quarter of a century, homeless families in Harford County have had one main address to turn to: Harford Family House.
The Aberdeen based non-profit has come a long way in 25 years, from its start as a local Episcopal Church project to the county's largest provider of transitional housing for families with children who need to stay together.
Joyce Duffy, the group's director for the past six years, said Harford Family House keeps struggling to meet the needs of the largest growing segment of the homeless population.
Last year, the organization turned away 765 requests for services. This year, it has turned away 930, she said.
Duffy said she recently got a call from a mother at a hospital with a new baby who needed a place to stay immediately.
"The calls can be very urgent like that," she said. "The need is really incredible but we do the best we can."
Homeless families with two parents have also been on the rise, she said.
"We have had people call with 10 children," she added.
Duffy noted that helping even one family get back on their feet affected future generations and the entire community.
"If we only served one family here... that impact would be very important," she explained. "What we hope is, we are breaking that cycle for the next generation."
Despite not being able to help everybody, Harford Family House has served more than 1,400 families in its 25 years, she said.
Harford Family House has approximately 28 housing units throughout the county. The organization rents or owns about a dozen homes in the Aberdeen area, including the Delle Grove apartment building at Post Road and East Bel Air Avenue, which also serves as its headquarters.
A typical client family spends roughly a year living in the transitional housing and is expected to work, abstain from drugs or alcohol and, ultimately, be responsible for finding their own place to live, Duffy said.
Harford Family House has seven employees, including three case workers, to help them do that.
Most recently, the organization partnered with Vehicles For Change to help clients finance their own car, as Duffy noted getting around the county is very difficult with no vehicle.
The program is funded in part by a three-year, $223,000 grant from the Dresher Foundation, a Baltimore region charitable foundation whose founding family has strong ties to Harford County.
The program also helps the families build good credit and develop financial literacy by working toward owning the car.
"We are not just trying to house people. They work," Duffy said, explaining people get three chances to follow the organization's rules. "If they don't work, they don't stay."
Back on her feet