History, Mission, and Approach
Overington House, Inc. was established in 1999 as a community-based nonprofit organization in the Frankford section of Philadelphia to provide transitional housing and supportive services for women recovering from homelessness, abuse and addiction, and their children. The agency’s mission is two-fold: to facilitate the return of homeless women to the mainstream of society by providing them with the strength and skills to empower them to support themselves, and to assure the healthy emotional and physical development of their young children. In so doing, Overington House places an emphasis on connecting families with affordable permanent housing opportunities.
Developed to meet the Frankford area’s lack of supportive housing programs for families at difficult crossroads, Overington House offers a safe, intimate atmosphere for families who may have never experienced a stable living environment before. Its transitional facility offers 13 private living areas for women and their children, as well as shared bathrooms, common lounge and dining areas, and private counseling space – thus serving up to 13 families at any one time, with a waiting list that reflects client demand. In all, Overington House has served over 175 families, with 55% transitioning to long-term self-sufficiency upon graduating. This percentage is consistent with citywide averages and is a testament to the agency’s effective approach.
Beyond providing shelter, Overington House offers an interfaith environment geared toward helping women and children overcome the isolation and loneliness associated with homelessness. Since many residents have lived lives marked by cycles of poverty and abuse, helping to build self-esteem and instill confidence that they can live independently and free from abuse or addiction is a key component of Overington House’s work. The agency’s program and residential staff work to create an environment in which families can overcome their obstacles by fostering a climate of trust and caring. All staff know women and children on an individual level, and often get to know women’s families of origin well enough to help identify and address the lifelong issues that have created and perpetuated their problems.
Overington House is a community-based program in the truest sense, having been initially developed by an Advisory Group of Frankford and Northeast Philadelphia nonprofit and corporate leaders, elected officials and concerned residents. Its residence lies one block from Frankford Avenue in the heart of the neighborhood’s commerce, transit and social activity. Overington House is firmly committed to collaborating with providers both within Frankford and citywide as a means to share effective practices and maximize resources, working with close to 60 community organizations to provide a full complement of opportunities to its residents. By providing access to neighborhood services and facilitating strong ties to the community, Overington House better enables families to return to independent living in the area.
Overington House represents a strong model of collaboration for positive change, having received The Philadelphia Foundation’s 2003 Williams Award for Excellence for its outstanding service and dedication to building strong communities. It also works to advocate and further opportunity for its families through active engagement in systemic service networks. Overington House is an active member of: the Blueprint to End Homelessness, a public policy initiative that convenes community leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to implement policies and programs to eradicate homelessness in Philadelphia; the Family Service Provider Network, a Southeastern Pennsylvania-based advocacy coalition; and the multi-state Advocacy Coalition for Homeless Families. Executive Director Marie Delany serves as the Frankford Neighborhood Liaison for the City Department of Behavioral Health/Mental Retardation Services’ Faith-Based Initiative, owing to her extensive experience working with addicted populations in Frankford. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the In Home Protective Services Shelter Program (IHPS), a division of DHS that works to reduce violence against youth in families in the shelter system and provides extra supports to help these families reach self sufficiency. This year, Ms. Delany is taking part in the Bryn Mawr Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute (NELI) certificate program. Participation in this program is expected to lead to new methods for enhancing Overington House’s organizational infrastructure, and to develop new, beneficial connections with nonprofit leaders in the region, leading to advanced programs and services at Overington House.
Overington House serves low-income women who have been homeless, are in recovery from addiction, may have mild mental or physical disabilities, may be HIV-positive, and who are parenting young children. Residents are typically young women in their 20s, with one to three children each. A majority come from Greater Frankford and Lower Northeast Philadelphia. 100% of women are in active recovery from substance abuse and are seeking to maintain sobriety, procure gainful employment and secure safe, affordable housing for their families. Some have been victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, including children exposed to family violence. Families typically graduate or leave the program within 12 to 18 months of residence, the average time it takes for most to achieve their goals for self-sufficient living.