Make A House A Home

It's been over a year since the opening of Safe Harbour House. In that time, we have deepened our understanding of the work we provide, specifically how physical spaces, emotional well-being, and community connections promote healing, restoration, and success for our youth. Each of these components reminds us that our shelter was the critical start to truly making a house a home.     

Traditionally, The Harbour has heavily relied on government funding (~75% of our fiscal budget) to support our direct services as well as fundamental operations day-to-day. Unfortunately, this means delays in payments from government funders disrupt our ability to most effectively provide services.   

To ensure continuous high-quality services, we are launching our Make a House a Home Campaign to expand and deepen donor engagement and establish a reserve to weather the delays, disruptions and even missed payments from state and federal funders. 

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Our Make a House a Home campaign is targeted to create an internal reserve fund that ensures our services continue without disruption.Your gift today will support young people like 21-year-old Kayla, a single mom of two children who lost her job – and her home. Kayla is one of the 61% of Americans living “paycheck to paycheck,” and the loss of her job had a ripple effect that resulted in eviction.  Within 24 hours of referral, The Harbour secured temporary shelter for Kayla, while our skilled staff assisted her in securing a new apartment through a federal program targeted to support young moms experiencing homelessness.  Our services didn’t stop there; we linked Kayla to employment resources and helped her secure childcare as she pursues new career opportunities. 

 Your campaign gift today will support young people like Kayla and ensure that Kayla - and others we serve - will continue to be supported.  As always, we are so grateful for the community of donors who support The Harbour’s work to end youth homelessness.

Building Spaces for Healing 

Throughout this year, we have celebrated accolades showered on our colleagues at OKW Architects and Designs for Dignity. OKW’s talents were recognized by the American Institute of Architects for their shelter design that emphasized access to "high quality architecture as a human right not a privilege". Designs for Dignity was recently recognized in the philanthropy category by the Illinois chapter of the International Interior Design Association for their beautiful, trauma informed interior design of the shelter.    

  • Since opening our shelter in May 2022, we have provided safety and security for nearly 100 youth. In this time, youth describe "finding and experiencing comfort, trust and safety in this house", allowing them to begin to heal, to learn patience and build relationships, and "believe in themselves and the adults on our staff." Staff feel as if "this shelter is a reflection of the dedication and the valuable care that is provided by all staff at The Harbour", a great step forward in stabilizing employee satisfaction and retention.   
  • We opened a new residence in Skokie that also benefitted from the talents and expertise of Designs for Dignity and made significant progress in elevating the standard of quality through much needed renovations of Staffire House, our transitional living house in Schaumburg.
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Promoting Emotional Resilience  

Last fall we deepened our investment in our most critical resource to our youth – our staff. Over the past year, we have taken the following actions to ensure our staff have the support and tools to help our youth. 

  • We invested in our staffing and reduced turnover by implementing a competitive pay scale and increasing our direct service wages by 20%. 
  • We expanded staff trainings to enhance our equity and inclusion practices with our youth and each other.  
  • In summer 2023, we created an empowerment-based learning series for our youth and staff together beginning with Lurie Children’s Hospital providing sessions on sexuality, reproductive health, and wellness.  
  • We are excited to begin a partnership with the James B. Moran Center to equip our youth and staff alike in knowing their legal rights.   

As our youth gain stability in our healing spaces, the next steps are expanding how youth voices guide our programs. This fall, we are launching phase 1 of our Youth Leadership Initiative via our Youth Advisory Board. This will be a group of young people from across our programs who help shape how we engage, promote, and enhance our services. The Youth Leadership Initiative is designed to offer learning, leadership, and advocacy opportunities for our youth as they learn to live beyond the trauma of their experience and build a foundation for a new future. By giving voice and choice directly to our young people, we are equipping them to be long-term self-advocates and proactively involved in defining how they live.  

Strengthening Community Networks 

Our dedicated outreach program has offered over 1600 points of contact in our neighborhoods from Schaumburg through Evanston and into Chicago, increasing awareness of our youth housing services.  

  • Through our relationships with current participants and community partners, we have doubled our pregnant and parenting teems program (STEPS), creating stability in the lives of young families.  
  • Last November, we created a new, nationally recognized campaign to raise awareness of National Runaway Prevention Month.  Working with 7 libraries across the northern suburbs, we offered presentations and informational displays, culminating in a Light the Night event in downtown Park Ridge.   

Increased outreach not only strengthens the network of support and referrals for service for our youth but also knits a fabric of community-based collaborative, holistic care made stronger as we work together.