MAKING A DIFFERENCE
By Darlene Donloe
Since 1985, the nonprofit Harvest Home has transformed the lives of homeless pregnant women and their children by providing housing, support and programs that help women become great mothers.
Some of the areas that Harvest Home focuses on include care for children, financial independence, emotional and mental health, physical health, and spiritual growth.
Harvest Home’s efforts were rewarded Jan. 23, when the organization was awarded a $10,000 LA Service Award grant from OneLife LA, a project of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that bloomed through a desire of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez to do a large-scale event that would celebrate the dignity of every living person. Gomez was this year’s featured speaker at the virtual, live-streamed event, implemented due to COVID-19 so families could safely join the celebration by watching from home.
This was the second year a grant was given. Last year the nonprofit, SOFESA, was the recipient.
“We are pleased to announce Harvest Home as our OneLife LA 2021 grant recipient,” said Kathleen Domingo, senior director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice. “We chose them because the Archdiocese has partnered with the organization because of all the good work they do. We learned of them a couple of years ago.”
The award, which will support the organization’s mission, was given to Harvest Home during OneLife L.A.’s annual one-day event designed to accelerate a movement of love and mercy in Los Angeles. During the event, participants were able to contribute additional funds to Harvest Home.
Harvest Home, located in Venice, is planning to open another location next year.
“We’re so honored to be the recipient of the OneLife LA grant this year,” said Harvest Home Executive Director Sarah Wilson, during the virtual celebration. “And certainly as the Archdiocese has already shown up as such a wonderful partner in this expansion project, this grant really helps to get us one step closer to opening those doors and increasing our impact.”
During the virtual celebration, Zantika Ellis, a Harvest Home resident said, “Everything you could need while you’re pregnant, you can get while you’re here, clothes, baby items, support, and labor and we are able to get connected with an organization that could help with a doula if you wanted one for birth.
“All the stuff you might worry or stress about on your own if you don’t have those resources, you can have access to here,” she added.
“Harvest Home is a residential program that provides housing and support, equipping the women for motherhood,” Wilson said. “We have women come in our doors when they are homeless and pregnant and have nowhere else to turn.
“Our aim is to not just provide housing but to really partner with the family long term as they work to transition out of homelessness.”
The theme of this year’s celebration was “The Joy of Life,” which is aimed to unite communities and inspire positive action that promotes the beauty and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. The virtual program honored those who continue to serve even during difficult circumstances.
“While ‘The Joy of Life’ is our theme this year, there wasn’t a lot to find in 2020,” Domingo said. “We’re all exhausted, tired of division, tired of the virus. It provides us an opportunity to be introspective.
“Some would think, ‘All those things I thought brought me joy, we don’t have it anymore.’ It’s the little things like being with friends and family, reading, doing a new craft, or having more quiet and alone time that really matters.
“I hope everyone has looked in their hearts a little bit to find out what brings them joy. There is joy just in our lives. It’s about the preciousness of human life.”
Pre-COVID, OneLife LA’s one-day event would include thousands who would converge downtown to listen to music and to hear speakers who spoke about what they’ve overcome in life.
“OneLife LA is a big team effort,” said Domingo, who went to grad school at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America and studied theology. “Every year we try to find new speakers to inspire our community and understand what human dignity looks like. We want people to see the beauty and joy in their own life. We find that sometimes we have to shine a light on other people’s stories.”
Domingo said during the event some speakers have shared about getting over disabilities.
“We love to share the stories,” she said. “It’s easier to see dignity in a particular person. Some people might have difficulty in seeing dignity in others, for instance, an inmate. We help people to weave the stories. Everyone has dignity. It’s a conversion in our hearts.”
OneLife LA seeks to promote a culture of life, where every human life is dignified, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. It believes each person’s life is a gift meant to be celebrated and shared. Each person has inherent and irrefutable dignity, from the moment of conception until the person’s last breath.
“OneLife LA is not an event, it’s a movement,” Domingo said.
Harvest Home began in 1985 with one woman taking a courageous step to impact the community around her.
Santa Monica resident Christy Minder encountered a young woman on the street who was pregnant, frightened and alone — with no place to call home. Seeing the woman’s potential, Christy extended her home and her heart to this young woman, inviting her to live in her home for the duration of the pregnancy.
That one selfless act birthed Harvest Home’s program, which has served more than 540 families over the last 30 years. The home provides a safe and nurturing environment and allows the organization to serve up to 10 pregnant women and babies at a time and up to 30 women in a year.
Statistics show about 95% of Harvest Home’s graduates transition into stable housing, 80% graduate with a job, 95% of graduates maintain custody of their children, and 90% of graduates participate in the organization’s alumnae program.
The county Health Department reports that each year 5,000 women are homeless at some point during their pregnancy. And, in the city of Los Angeles, there are currently less than 65 shelter beds available for women who are pregnant and in crisis. Of these, Harvest Home provides 10.
That means that each year thousands of women lack housing and supportive programming during one of the most critical times in a mother and baby’s life.
Domingo said soon after learning about Harvest Home, a convent in the Archdiocese opened. It was built in the 1940s and had a capacity for 30 persons. The sisters who were living there moved back to Ireland. They wanted someone to continue their mission.
Ironically, Harvest Home had been in a yearlong prayer on an expansion project. At the time, the group didn’t have the resources to purchase property in Los Angeles. Domingo asked Harvest Home if they wanted to expand into the convent. They said yes and a partnership was formed.
Domingo, 45, a married mother of two boys said Harvest Home fills a significant need for the most vulnerable residents, “all with loving care and empowering services.”
“They help women go to school, get an apartment, and other resources,” Domingo said. “They are a life-affirming organization that keeps in contact with the women. We are proud to partner with Harvest Home as they expand their capacity to bring their life-saving gifts to a broader community.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.