The leadership team of Safe Harbor of Chester County, which helps the needy transition to independence, took the opportunity recently to reflect on not only this year but prior ones as well.
The introspection is understandable, given that the organization — along with the county and the nation — is feeling a general uplift from the spring weather. And the ebb of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a time to be upbeat, and CEO Judy Jeffords-Homitz projects a related sense of optimism.
Gratitude and Compassion
She expressed gratitude for “the outpouring of support we at Safe Harbor of Chester County have received from our community. Because of this generosity of spirit, we have continued to serve and make a difference for the homeless and food insecure of Chester County each day.”
She’s also grateful for the way her staff and the residents responded to the necessary safety protocols associated with COVID-19.
“When the pandemic hit last March,” Jeffords-Homitz explained, “We chose to relocate our residents to a local hotel so they could more easily social distance themselves.”
The necessary move created numerous challenges. Safe Harbor and its staff:
- Received CDC safety guideline training
- Shifted schedules to ensure a 24-hour presence in the hosting hotel
- Accommodated the revised transportation needs of employed residents
- Ironed out logistics for hot meals, laundry, and delivery of personal items
While residents were offsite, the staff reconfigured Safe Harbor’s interior layout in anticipation of their return. Changes ensured compliance with current CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health requirements. With revised health guidelines in mind, employees:
- Rearranged common areas and sleeping quarters to enable distancing
- Installed Plexiglas and distancing signage
- Participated in training on protocols and procedures to guard against infection
- Revised the free hot lunch program for contactless pickup
All efforts proved successful.
Jeffords-Homitz is also mindful, however, that many families did not fare as well.
“The sadness we carry is that other friends and family members have not been so lucky, and we mourn their passing along with their loved ones,” she said.
Something to Celebrate
Jeffords-Homitz mentioned a milestone that was somewhat eclipsed as the local health crisis stretched on: Safe Harbor’s 25th anniversary.
Now, as the gloom of the pandemic clears, she and her colleagues are in a more appropriate frame of mind to mark the occasion.
The organization’s beginnings are rooted in a 1992 task force of local politicians and community members. The mission? Help homeless neighbors.
The fledgling outreach started as a traveling shelter that tucked residents in area churches as needs arose.
Three years later, it established a permanent home.
The watchword from the very beginning was “low-demand,” meaning no one in need of help would be turned away from an available space.
In 2007, the organization branched out with a Single Homeless Women’s Task Force. The offshoot came about to meet a female-centric rising need throughout Chester County.
When the four beds allotted to this program proved inadequate, Safe Harbor undertook a major building expansion. By March 2010, accommodations were ample enough to house 20 women and 20 men concurrently.
“For 25 years the mission of Safe Harbor is to provide housing, food, and access to support services in a structured environment for homeless single men and women in Chester County,” Jeffords-Homitz concluded. “We can continue this mission because of the community’s support.”
She issued a call for donations, volunteers, and even board members to maintain the current forward momentum. Contact Safe Harbor for details.
Building on its past success — while continuing to stretch toward future goals — Safe Harbor is focused and energetic enough to serve Chester County for another quarter-century.
And far beyond that.