Since 1972, Harbor House has worked with over 100,000 individuals in the San Antonio community of Oakland, California. The ministry began with a single person—schoolteacher and First Covenant Church member, Olive Freeman. Freeman began offering assistance to her students and their families, providing books, food, clothing, and educational tutoring out of the trunk of her car. This grassroots assistance quickly caught on, and other locals began volunteering for her cause. Since then, the organization has been carrying out its mission to work “through God’s grace and mercy to create positive, systematic change for individuals” and the Oakland community.
About a quarter of Bay Area households do not have the income needed to fulfill the basic needs of members within each household. Food, housing, childcare, medical care, and other necessities are often not met, even with families working two or three jobs. Unemployment, underemployment, refugee status, illiteracy and inadequate educational preparation are just some of the challenges facing this Bay Area population. This cycle of poverty often continues on to the youth. Many youth have to enter the workforce early in order to contribute to the family income. More often than not, the youth lack sufficient adult role models, especially since parents are largely absent because of their around-the-clock work schedules to make ends meet.
“[We are] bringing God’s love to the people of Oakland by meeting spiritual, physical, and educational needs.”
Harbor House recognized that the issues and barriers faced by those within the low-income community were not symptomatic of just one thing. It was often the compacting of multiple issues that made individual situations difficult. In response, the multi-ethnic Christian based non-profit organization has served its community through a holistic ministry, “bringing God’s love to the people of Oakland by meeting spiritual, physical, and educational needs” in order to break the barriers that often keep individuals from the opportunity to reach their potential.
The organization serves the Oakland community through its youth, education, economic development and spiritual development programs. Through the youth programs, children are equipped to grow academically, socially, and spiritually. There are sports, the arts, academic enrichment and other cultural activities. The program sustains itself as the children grow up and develop the skills and confidence within the program to give back to the community. Harbor House’s education programs include English as a Second Language for both youth and adults, with tailor-made curricula for those with less than three years of education, which are arguably the most difficult students to reach in the community. Youth Leadership Internships are also offered to equip the youth in the community with job readiness, community service, teamwork and diversity awareness training.
The economic development programs are twofold: addressing the immediate needs of individuals and then creating practical, long-term plans for a more permanent solution. The program recognizes that meeting the short- and long-term needs of an individual is when real change can happen. Harbor House’s future plans will address the economic issues of the population through education, awareness, and the creation of entrepreneurial opportunities, equipping individuals with knowledge and creating opportunities that will benefit the community as a whole.
The programs are open to everyone in the community. Christians and non-Christians alike are welcome to take advantage of the organization’s services; the spiritual development aspect is not required. But Harbor House does offer spiritual guidance and assistance to help individuals cope with everyday life stresses. Instilling each individual with the knowledge of their intrinsic value through God’s deep love is believed to be a necessary part of the holistic healing and wellness for each person. Pastoral care, Bible studies and urban study are all part of Harbor House’s spiritual development program.
To find out how you can support Harbor House in their mission, please visit www.hhministries.org