A newsmaker you should know: HEARTH nonprofit finds new home in Shaler

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It's an exciting time for Judy Eakin and HEARTH -- Homelessness Ends with Advocacy, Resources, Training and Housing -- a nonprofit based in Ross and Scott.

After living in temporary locations for more than a year, Ms. Eakin, executive director of the agency, was pleased to be holding a groundbreaking ceremony for a new home on Mount Royal Boulevard in Shaler.

The organization is renovating two buildings at the former Zoar Home site that will allow the administration offices and the residential program to be in the same location when the project is completed, according to Ms. Eakin. The $7.4 million project is expected to be completed in summer 2013.

HEARTH is a residential program that was established in June 1995 for homeless single mothers and their children.

Ms. Eakin said they provide housing and services for women with at least one dependent child and willing to enroll in an educational program that will help them find employment. The women must also take mandatory life skills classes. They work with numerous social service agencies and organizations to provide programming for their families, Ms. Eakin said. The residents are referred through a variety of sources, including word of mouth.

Ms. Eakin said the new location is exactly what they were hoping to find after the property was sold where they were located in Ross.

After the board researched various locations, the residential programming was relocated to Scott, where HEARTH rents apartments for the women. The administrative offices are temporarily in Ross.

"This is the perfect space for us. It allows our families to be housed under one roof in an area that is in a residential setting, on a bus line and has a great school district for the children," she said of the new Shaler location.

The women are living in a couple of apartment buildings with another apartment being used for the residential programming staff and storage, but they are divided in a couple different buildings. Ms. Eakin said they prefer the women to be located all under one roof so they can interact more easily and serve as resources and support for each other.

"When we were in one building, they could leave their apartment doors open and everyone could go back and forth between each other's houses easier and do things like cook dinners together, have the children do homework and play together, and other activities," she said.

Additionally, with the administrative offices in a different location, Ms. Eakin said they miss the day-to-day interactions with the women and the children.

"We are used to having the children stop in to see us and tell us about their days," she said. "And we miss that."

The main building will be renovated to house 16 families. A smaller building will house four more families. The property also has a large playground for the children and the administration offices. An old house on the property could not be repurposed, according to Ms. Eakin, and was torn down.

HEARTH is in the midst of a large capital campaign to help fund the new property and renovations, Ms. Eakin said.

"Our goal is to raise $1.5 million, and so far we have raised $1.1 million. We have had support from local foundations the government and the community," she said, "We've been so happy with the response."


Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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