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Harford Family House keeping homeless families together in Harford County, Maryland

December 13, 2010

To say that Jim and Tina Brooks never expected to be homeless is most definitely an understatement. For all of the years of their marriage, Jim’s job paid the bills. Tina stayed home with their children.  You would notice Jim and Tina in a crowd only for their youthful appearance and three well-behaved children with various shades of red hair.


Then Jim’s work hours were cut. Then cut some more. Their debts, already a nagging issue, exploded.


The Brooks rapidly lost their footing and could no longer keep up with housing and food expenses. No friends or relatives could take in a family of five.


One of Jim’s co-workers told them about Harford Family House, a Jubilee Ministry in Harford County, Md. Begun as a joint ministry among the nine Episcopal churches in Harford County in the 1980s, Harford Family House has grown to become is the largest provider of transitional housing for homeless families with children in the county. Last year, Harford House provided housing for 27 families. That works out to nearly 18,000 nights of shelter for 87 people.


The Brooks family was accepted on the same day they were evicted from their home. “If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone,” says Tina.


Jim and Tina see Harford Family House as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assess mistakes, reorganize their lives, set goals and get back on track.


Looking back, they realize that they lacked two essential ingredients to weathering an economic crisis: goals and a budget. The staff at Harford Family House is helping them organize both. The program provides not only housing but also education and case management support to help homeless families work their way back to wholeness. Now Jim is working again and they are rebuilding their lives.


They are on track to be almost debt-free in a year. Tina has plans to soon return to college to work on a long-time dream of becoming an accountant. Overall, Tina and Jim say that they will be much more prepared for the future and whatever it brings.


“I’m going to look back and say ‘Wow, if it wasn’t for Harford Family House, we’d be living in a car or on the street with three children,’” Jim says. “I thank God for Harford Family House being there when we needed it. It’s humbling.”



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