House of Refuge overcomes 'perfect storm' to help homeless

August 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Nancy Marion described it as "a perfect storm."

In 2016, she said, House of Refuge suffered a series of "extraordinarily difficult blows."

Marion is executive director of the Mesa-based nonprofit, which provides transitional housing and support services for homeless families.

This week she relayed the story of House of Refuge's turnaround to the Mesa City Council as she thanked Mesa Mayor John Giles, Councilmember Kevin Thompson, who serves the nonprofit's district, and the entire Council for its support during the trying time.

In May of 2016, House of Refuge was one of 200 transitional housing programs across the nation that lost funding. Around the same time, sewers began to fail on the organization's 88 homes, funding cuts closed the on-site child care program, and the air-conditioning unit at the administrative offices died.

"Not unlike our families that find their way into our programs, we were dealing with unforeseen catastrophes, Marion said. We really could have so easily just been a headline on a newspaper of another nonprofit that had closed its doors."

But the Mesa City Council approved $30,000 to help transition families that had to relocate to other housing programs. And City staff led by Liz Morales, City of Mesa housing and community development director. Councilmember Thompson advocated for the organization to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, which led to a grant from the AG to help with sewer repair. Trane Heating and Air Conditioning donated services to repair the A/C. Other nonprofits, including the Mesa United Way, rallied around the organization.

And, against all odds, House of Refuge rebounded.

Marion expects the 88 transitional homes to be full by the end of September. "I think if the nation is looking for a spot in this world to see how a community can come together and solve a problem, I think they need look no further than Mesa, Arizona."

Mayor Giles noted that the entire community was to thank for helping House of Refuge.

"This was really a community response to the tragedy that occurred at House of Refuge," Giles said. "It was fun to see the way this community rallied around the cause."

Landon Pickering was part of that community response. Landon's Eagle Scout project involved remodeling a badly damaged House of Refuge home. A family with two children now lives in the home, and the Mesa City Council lauded Landon's extensive efforts.