“It’s not just the big things but the little things as well,” says Henry Demers.
Day to day, Mr. Demers meets homeless individuals at Harmony Home, the ministry he founded in Manchester, New Hampshire.
But Mr. Demers’ ministry is different from other homeless ministries in a powerful way.
You see, Harmony Home focuses on individuals instead of the masses.
Harmony Home is a refuge for those that have virtually nothing, by providing access to showers, laundry facilities, food, and clothes throughout the day.
For the past five years, this ministry has worked to touch the lives of those that are often forgotten.
In America there are over 500,000 people without a place to call their own. In New Hampshire alone there are over 1,400 homeless people, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Government programs have been implemented to relieve homelessness; however, there are still large populations of homeless in areas such as Washington D.C.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, since 2007, 36 states reported a decrease in the homeless population, while 14 states and Washington D.C. reported an increase in homelessness. Government programs can only focus on the homeless population as a whole, providing shelters and basic needs.
But what happens when a place to stay for the night is not enough?
What happens when they need the mental and emotional support to take the next step in starting their lives again?
According to Kevin C. Corinth, writer for the American Enterprise Institute, the government programs are not as effective if the person can’t overcome their mental illness or substance abuse problems.
He writes in an article entitled Improving our Federal Response to Homelessness that, “It is a failure then when, despite the billions of dollars spent by the federal government alone for programs, tens of thousands of people with severe mental illness and chronic substance problems live on the street.”
So, what is the solution? How can homelessness be prevented?
Harmony Home’s approach may be the answer: focus on the individual, rather than the whole.
Harmony Home focuses on individuals.
They do their best for the homeless that come through their doors. Loriann Arel, who often volunteers to help with clothing drives for Harmony Home notes that, “They [Harmony Home] really love people, no matter who they are. They see a need and they meet that need.”
Demers and other volunteers work tirelessly to make sure that they are meeting the needs of the homeless in their area, whether through their own provisions or with the help of the community.
“If there is a need that I personally can’t meet, I’ll go on my Facebook and bring it before people and see if there is anyone who can help,” notes Demers.
More often than not, taking to Facebook covers the need.
Demers uses Facebook to spread the word about obstacles that local homeless are facing — the community responds instantly. People donate a range of supplies from clothes to a down payment and first month’s rent on an apartment. When a need can’t be met by a volunteer at Harmony Home, people in the community are more than willing to help.
Besides providing for material needs, Harmony Home also provides mental and emotional support.
Many homeless that have walked into Harmony Home have received counseling and rehabilitation. Harmony Home seeks to encourage and support the homeless physically and mentally.
“Sometimes people think it’s because of the addiction that they’re homeless. But really it’s a life altering change that made them homeless, and the addiction is their way of coping,” says Demers.
Harmony Home itself is not a rehab facility. However, they do connect those with substance abuse problems to other organizations that provide recovery programs. Through Harmony Home, many have been sent to rehab facilities all over the country as far as Texas and California.
Many begin rehab at their lowest point, “looking like death” when they leave as Demers describes. Each candidate leaves looking for a fresh start and has returned recovered and ready to take the next step in their life.
Rich Bernier, recovered through the help of Harmony Home, writes, “Before Harmony Home last year I would rob from you, steal from you, hurt you. Today I walk into Harmony Home a year later and now I would love you and encourage you. Now I actually care about you.”
Before Harmony Home, Rich wanted nothing to do with people but today he’s a completely changed man, caring for those that he meets.
Read more about his story here.
Government programs focus on the big picture — giving people shelter.
Harmony Home focuses on transforming the individuals.
Unlike government programs, they give them more than just a place to sleep at night. They work together to provide for each individual, whether large or small.
Demers notes what it is like to see so many people go from a life in shambles to a new start: “The most rewarding part is seeing those people that do change, and the families restored from it. To know the mothers will sleep better at night, and giving kids their dad back.”
Please pray for the homeless and for Harmony Home’s ministry. Pray that there will be more ministries like Harmony Home focusing on the individuals suffering from homelessness and getting them the real help they need.