Families, Testimonial

Rebuilding Villages: How Harvest House Sarasota Helps Families Overcome Homelessness

HH Emergency Shelter in Action!

Imagine living in your car with your family just a few days before Christmas. This was the reality for a mother, grandmother, and two children who contacted Harvest House for shelter. Despite working hard and receiving social security, they struggled to make ends meet, let alone afford a home, resorting to living in their car. The staff at Harvest House complete the intake process quickly so the family could have a safe place to stay that night.

The work of Harvest House continued after providing emergency shelter. Thanks to a kind and generous donation to the Holiday Giving program, we brought much-needed holiday cheer to this struggling family. The next day, when staff visited the family with gift cards for the adults and wrapped toys for the children, they found the grandmother alone in the shelter while the mother and children were at the playground. Overwhelmed with emotion, she wanted to share how her grandchildren had asked if Santa could find them in their car this year. With absolute confidence, the Harvest House staff knew that efforts to provide this family with a safe haven and some holiday cheer had profoundly impacted their lives, and they were grateful to have been able to give them a glimmer of hope during the festive season. 

The reality is that many families in Sarasota County are struggling to make ends meet. With the average rent in Sarasota at $2,134, a person working a 15-dollar-per-hour job in Florida earns approximately $31,200 per year, assuming they work  40 hours  per week,  52 weeks  per year, leaving $466/month for taxes, basic necessities, utilities, cell phone, food, transportation, medical, childcare, clothing, and other fundamental needs. According to MIT Living Wage Calculator and United Way’s ALICE report for Sarasota, Florida, a single parent with two children needs more than $80,000 annually.

Being unhoused is a challenging and isolating experience. To protect their secret, individuals often avoid places where they might be seen by people who know them, leading to isolation and a feeling of living a lie. Night comes, and while others go home to their families, people without housing are left looking for somewhere dark and safe for themselves and their families to sleep. The struggle to find a place to get ready for work or school begins in the morning. 

This is where Harvest House Sarasota comes in. We believe everyone needs a village, and our mission is to help families rebuild their village. 

Our emergency shelter provides dignified dorm-style units at no cost for families with no safe place to sleep. Families can stay up to 30 days. After basic needs are addressed, the next steps are taken to find sustainable housing. Families can access emergency and long-term transitional housing with full spectrum support services, including case management, life-skills classes, and special events and outings that create a support community. Parents also have the choice to go back to school through our Home Again Education Track. While in school, thanks to our supporters, Harvest House can relieve financial barriers to continuing education, including rent, childcare fees, and school supplies.

The family who came to us four days before Christmas needing emergency shelter is still being served by our team. They can stay while they work with their Harvest House case manager to get their lives back on track and stable. The one word the case manager used to describe this family is “perseverance.” That, along with strength, courage, hope, and the support of a village, we are confident that this family can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances.

In 2023, Harvest House assisted 112 families, including 346 individuals, 132 adults, 214 of them being children.

This was made possible due to our committed staff, amazing volunteers, those who share our mission, and financial supporters who, year after year, give abundantly to Harvest House and our mission. 

Stories like the one above reminds us of the importance of coming together and meeting isolation with a village full of compassion and kindness toward one another. Harvest House is doing just that, one family at a time.

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