For many in the Huntington area, the answer is the Huntington House. This local organization opened its doors in 1990 to provide safe and temporary housing to the homeless. But during the last 20 years, the shelter’s focus has slowly evolved to go beyond this.
Carolyn Ray, the Huntington House manager since 2009, said, “The Huntington House works with clients to find the cause of their homelessness, make goals for their futures and work towards self-sufficiency.”
The Huntington House works with homeless families, single mothers with children and single women. They helped 66 individuals in 2010 and 41 in 2011, including 12 children.
Taylor Zeman, an alumni of Huntington University and current resident assistant at the Huntington House, said the house has never been empty since 2008. Zeman views the Huntington House as a vital part of the Huntington community.
He said, “The Huntington House is the only agency in the county that will provide an emergency shelter for women and families.”
The Huntington House serves people who come from all walks of life; everyone has different circumstances that led to homelessness. Ray said that the primary reason for homelessness right now is the economy. Most of the clients do not have the education to get more than a minimum wage job with no job security, she said. When the economy took a turn for the worse, they were the first to get cut. Another reason Ray cited for homelessness in the Huntington community is mental illness, primarily depression.
Whatever the reason, the Huntington House has countless ways to help clients get back on their feet. It has the capacity to house up to 13 people. The Huntington House also works with Pathfinders, an organization that provides transitional housing for families.
The house works with programs like Work One, which helps the clients learn how to find a job and how to get higher education, and Purdue Extension, which teaches classes in nutrition, budgeting and general life skills. The Huntington House also offers counseling for their clients through the Life Spring Counseling Center at HU.
As part of the program, the Huntington House requires their clients to do two hours of community service per week in addition to 20 hours searching for a job. They also have a rotational chore schedule for those who live in the house.
The Huntington House is financially supported by many local churches, but still has many needs. Products that the clients use in their daily lives, such as trash bags, laundry soap and personal hygiene products are collected. Currently, trash bags, Shout stain remover, baby wipes and laundry soap are needed.
The needs of the Huntington House go far beyond these products. The staff needs people to come and simply interact with the clients, Ray said.
“Sometimes clients just need a shoulder to lean on and someone to talk to,” she said.
If HU students want to get involved, she said they should come any day between 5 and 7 p.m., when most of the clients are present. Volunteers are needed to fill many different roles at the house.
Zeman encouraged HU students to get-involved at the Huntington House because it gives them an opportunity to get off campus and to stay in touch with the community.
Jessica Krause, a sophomore psychology major, has been volunteering at the Huntington House for the past year.
“It’s a great opportunity to get involved in working for God’s Kingdom,” she said. “You learn a lot. The women I’ve met there have definitely impacted my life.”
She generally relieves the staff of some of their duties answering phones, keeping things calm and playing with the kids.
Ray said she is very thankful for HU’s involvement in the past through the Joe Mertz Center’s fall and spring work days,
“We do what we can to help the community because they support us,” Ray said.
The Huntington House welcomes anyone who wishes to get involved.
The Huntington House is located at 576 William Street. Those interested in volunteering should visit www.huntingtonhouse.org for more information and an application.