Harbor House works to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing critical life-saving services to survivors, implementing and advancing best practices, and educating and engaging the community in a united front.test
Accomplishments in FY 2015/16:
Harbor House does not charge for any shelter, outreach, or courthouse service. Thus, more than $1 million must be raised annually to meet operational expenses and generate matching funds.
1. Client needs: Transportation costs for medical appointments and clinic visits; ID/birth certificate fees; personal and feminine care items; diapers; clothing; laundry detergent and cleaning supplies; gas and grocery gift cards; and more.
2. Client needs upon leaving shelter: Rent and utility bill assistance, food, furniture, clothing, etc.
3. With four buildings to serve our clients, our utility bills must be paid. Water and electricity utility assistance is always gratefully received.
4. General shelter needs: plastic and paper products (plastic wrap, plastic cutlery, paper plates and napkins, etc.); travel and transportation (fleet fuel, vehicle repair); and rental equipment (copier, etc.).
5. During holiday times, we uplift the residents with special festivities , such as “shopping at our holiday store”, Mother’s Day hair styling and cuts, as well as Halloween activities for the children. For out-of-school summer months, a complete schedule of children’s summer activities, such as “Splash Day”, a bounce house, and cook-outs are planned.
In 1976, a group of women pooled their talents and resources to help battered women escape from their abusers. With 4 beds in a downtown Orlando basement, the founders established a safe house and named it “Spouse Abuse, Inc.” In 2008, this same organization changed its name to “Harbor House of Central Florida, Inc.” (Harbor House). Today, in a confidential location, Harbor House’s emergency shelter for domestic violence victims is one of several buildings located on a 6+-acre compound. From humble beginnings, Harbor House has grown into a modern, 150-bed emergency shelter with a donation center, a pet kennel, and an administrative/childcare building.
Harbor House’s programs have also evolved into a comprehensive set of domestic abuse programs:
Harbor House is Orange County’s only State-certified domestic violence service provider, predominantly for battered women and their children. Our 150-bed shelter is well postured to what appears to be an increasing trend: domestic violence is not only not going away but increasing. Since 2011, Orange County’s domestic violence offenses have grown almost 10%. In 2015 and as reported by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Orange County—the State of Florida’s 5th most populated county (1.3 million residents)—had the highest number of reported domestic violence offenses (8,901), even surpassing Miami-Dade County’s reported offenses (8,828) with twice the number of residents (2.2 million).
This information puts Harbor House’s services in a different light. With domestic violence cases trending up, the ability to be able to shelter a future growing number of domestic violence victims and survivors is critical; we are well positioned to be that haven of hope that we know is coming.
For those who do not need emergency shelter, the Outreach office offers advocacy for housing and public assistance. Outreach advocates create safety plans, develop case management files, and refer clients for counseling and other needed disciplines. Our Justice advocates work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to help prevent injuries and even death at the hand of batterers by creating safety plans as well as offering services and assistance with court orders for protection. Harbor House’s prevention team actively teaches and informs the public about domestic violence awareness, what to look for, and how to help.
Harbor House is focused on saving lives and giving hope to those who have none.
Harbor House’s goal is to break the cycle of domestic abuse, starting with Orange County, Florida. To accomplish this, it is imperative that we create a new pathway of awareness: from reacting to domestic violence after the fact to proactively changing hearts and minds. We must establish a community of active, trained bystanders on every level - from individual to societal (businesses, health care professionals, faith institutions) to systemic (courts, judges, public policy). Finally, we must change the conversation about domestic abuse because this is not just a women’s issue, or a family issue, or “a problem.” This is a societal dilemma that drains our society emotionally, economically, and spiritually.
To truly end this devastating cycle, our goals for the next 5 years must include:
1. Promoting domestic violence offender accountability and sentencing by at least a 10% increase in successful prosecution outcomes.
2. Demonstrating that survivors who accept Harbor House services can define and achieve their own goals for safety and self- sufficiency.
3. Demonstrating that survivors who leave Harbor House can transition successfully and peacefully into meaningful and rewarding lives.
Public awareness is key to ensuring that our message is clearly understood by domestic violence victims, their family members, and all other community members in Orange County, FL. This means that we must communicate clearly both verbally and in print, as well as strengthen our outreach efforts, specifically for these populations.
To accomplish our public awareness goals, we must continue to:
1. Train students in our Leaders of Courage or Little Leaders education programs.
2. Make sure that healthcare providers are screening their patients for domestic abuse.
3. Encourage first responders to use our InVEST Crisis Response team to the fullest capacity.
4. Inspire businesses to implement policies that address domestic violence in the workplace to increase workplace safety.
5. Help medical professionals to providing their staff with Recognize, Respond, Refer (R3) programming as well as teaching the importance and the courage to come forward and help those in their organization who are in need.
Harbor House’s strategies to achieve social change are focused on creating a community of active bystanders. To do this, we use what we teach in Recognize, Respond, Refer (R3), which clarifies how to recognize domestic abuse, respond to it effectively, and refer survivors to safety.
For example, our Project Courage initiative was a targeted effort in two communities in Orange County. Beginning in 2009, our goal was to saturate the first community--Pine Castle--with knowledge, training programs, and events to help eradicate domestic abuse in that area. We went into schools, businesses, health care providers, government agencies, and faith-based institutions with training and programming focused on our core philosophy of R3. Armed with information about how to recognize domestic abuse, how to respond to it effectively, and how to refer survivors to safety, we built significant partnerships and changed attitudes and behaviors.
Harbor House’s prevention team expanded the program to other high risk areas, such as Bithlo, and targeted schools in the Evans High School, Edgewater, Boone High School, Stonewall Jackson Middle School, Oak Ridge High School, East Orlando Carver Middle School, Orlando Day Nursery, and Ivy Lane Elementary. The 911 calls didn’t stop, but the results from the Project Courage initiative have demonstrated that individuals learned that they have real choices beyond being a victim. They can seek shelter, participate in counseling, or choose a legal avenue, such as filing injunctions. This is proof that our efforts are working.
Building on this, our strategies for future success are the following:
Our internal resources include a highly-trained and experienced staff who promote trauma-informed care and an empowerment model for survivors. Coupled with a strong, well-connected board of directors who are influential in the community and committed to our mission, Harbor House has the right people to accomplish the stated goals. Our executive-level board brings a wide array of expertise in strategic development, financial services, human resources, communications and governance; their expertise and involvement has been instrumental to our success.
Externally, our community recognizes the critical need for Harbor House’s services and actively support the work we do. We are so grateful to have partnerships with other agencies that include homeless coalitions, child welfare agencies, health care partners, and law enforcement agencies. Harbor House also has strong partnerships with some of Florida’s most well-known corporations, such as Disney World Resorts, SeaWorld Orlando, The Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Magic, TJX Foundation, Westgate Resorts, Universal Studios), as well as foundations that are both local and national in scope (Visiting Nurses Association, The Harper Family Charitable Foundation, The John and Polly Sparks Foundation, Minto Foundation, and more).
Our donors—from every aspect of giving—acknowledge the immeasurable impact of what Harbor House does. A prime example of how the community has banded together to support Harbor House is evidenced with our new 26,000+ sf shelter, which could not have been built without the endorsements and financial backing of the Morgan Family, Disney World Resorts, Westgate Resorts, and countless other organizations, corporations, and individuals. Our donors and sponsors of companies, foundations, and individuals—are the truest measurement of the community’s confidence. With a bed count of 150, the new Harbor House shelter will provide both safe and private space for families to heal. This could not have been realized without the generosity and funding from our community partners.
Additionally, we are proactively moving our funding model from a grant-based income stream to a donor-identified revenue base. From our roster of over 10,000 names, we are seeking out, identifying, and cultivating individuals who will continue to support us and/or discover how Harbor House is an excellent investment for the Orange County community.
Furthermore, we are a valued member of the Orange County Domestic Violence Task Force, which is comprised of leaders from nearly every agency that touches the criminal justice system in domestic violence cases. Through our involvement, we have been able to offer tangible solutions to community-wide problems identified during the commission Task Force’s research process.
Several indicators illustrate that our efforts are working. The DELTA Focus program brought together Harbor House staff with the Orlando Police Department School Resource Officers. Because Officer attitudes and perceptions of teen dating violence were identified through a survey, Harbor House tailored an R3 training to officers at area high schools.Thus, at targeted specific high-risk schools (Evan, Oakridge, Boone, Dr. Phillips, and Lake Nona), we were able to work closely with Orlando Police Department School Resource officers.
Recognizing the value of parent and student engagement and programs, such as Harbor House’s Leader of Courage program, Evans High School's administration created a parent resource center (PRC) and staffed the center with a full-time parent and a community outreach coordinator. The PRC provides a welcoming place for parents to come for information, training, direction, and team camaraderie that is focused on empowering students to achieve. This is but one example of how our fight against domestic abuse is winning.
These schools welcomed Harbor House’s Little Leaders and Leader of Courage classes where dating violence, date rape, and/or bullying classes (age-appropriate) were discussed frankly. To many of these teens and younger children, these topics had remained hidden. Yet, to be able to participate in classroom discussions with peers, is invaluable.
We continue to educate school-aged children with our Little Leaders of Courage curricula taught to students, aged 4 through elementary, and Leaders of Courage for middle school and high school students. This past fiscal year, we conducted classes for high school students at Oak Ridge High School. With videos and handouts, the students discussed domestic violence, teen rape dating, and bullying, holding little back as they shared stories and expressed themselves candidly. With open dialogues that bring out solutions, we are positively impacting the community and children.
Internally, we use several methods of measurement to identify progress toward our intended impact. Our reports for FY 2015/16 show:
Our efforts to focus on R3 training and to create a community of active bystanders, resulted in a substantial change. Health professionals in our Project Courage community of Pine Castle said they would change their patient evaluation routine to include R3. Faith leaders and parishioners in the Pine Castle area who took the survey said they now understood "how to Recognize, Respond and Refer a domestic abuse survivor." In the business community, most of those trained stated that when confronted by a domestic abuse survivor, they would help him or her get the resources needed to be safe. This is social change.
There is more work to do. Our goal is to:
90% of shelter residents will have safe housing when leaving shelter.
95% of callers identified as high lethality will receive a safety plan.
80% of children in shelter will receive child care services.
100% of children in shelter will receive a welcome and discharge session with an advocate.
Rosa never thought that domestic abuse could happen to her until she met her former boyfriend, who mentally and physically tortured her for several years. While to the outside world, he was a well-respected man in the community, at home, he terrorized Rosa with his controlling behavior. When Rosa came to Harbor House, she was traumatized and afraid for her life. She had recently lost her job because her former boyfriend stalked her at her place of employment and was terrified that he would find her and kill her. Through safety planning and case management in the emergency shelter, Rosa was able to gain the skills and confidence that she needed to move forward with her life. As a result of living in a safe and stable environment, Rosa obtained full time employment at a local bank. She moved into our Transitional Housing program and saved money to move into her own apartment. She has expressed that she feels much more confident through the encouragement and support of Harbor House.
Sarah was a homeless survivor of domestic abuse who came to the Outreach program having lived in a tent for months. She was unemployed and wanted to work; however, without an address she was unable to obtain the necessary documentation needed for employment. Sarah was referred to the Community Based Housing program. With a stable place to live, she was able to focus on her employment needs. She met regularly with the Community Based Housing Specialist and was provided the following services: safety planning, assistance with obtaining necessary identification, and credit repair through the Financial Empowerment workshops. As a result, Sarah recently obtained full time employment. Sarah is now healthier and her self-esteem has significantly improved. She has expressed an interest in some day volunteering as an advocate for a domestic abuse center and states that she thanks Harbor House for changing her life.
Harbor House’s prevention program’s purpose is to break the cycle of domestic abuse by engaging Orange County’s youth. Ranging from our Leaders of Courage (middle and high school youth) to Little Leaders (tailored for pre-K to 5th grade), we educate children about healthy relationships, bullying, and safe bystander intervention. Project Courage reaches all levels of the community from youth in the Leaders of Courage program to businesses in our Key Business initiative to community leaders and faith institutions. Since its launch in March 2010, Project Courage has been taught in the Pine Castle, Malibu Groves, Oak Ridge, and Bithlo communities.
The Leaders of Courage curriculum is designed to educate youth about the dynamics of abusive/unhealthy relationships. Throughout the 9-week program, youth will define abuse and respect, learn skills for effective communication, recognize red flags, bullying behaviors, learn safe bystander intervention, understand gender stereotypes, and create strategies with youth that raise awareness about intimate partner violence to their schools and communities.
After attending two group sessions, a youth participant recognized that she was in an unhealthy relationship. While no longer in the relationship, her former boyfriend was becoming increasingly aggressive. Through the Leaders of Courage program, the teenager recognized the signs of an abusive relationship. After safety planning with the teen, the advocate followed up, citing that the young woman continued to attend the groups. She became a leader among her peers and a strong proponent for the success of the Leaders of Courage program.
On December 6, 2012, the Paws for Peace kennel opened—and welcomed a guinea pig. Since then 96 dogs, 19 cats, and 5 other pets have been residents of the kennel, allowing 92 families to seek safe shelter without having to leave their family pet behind. With sponsors, such as SeaWorld, the facility is fully functional with separate quarters for dogs, cats, and “others”.
Harbor House’s Donation Center opened on December 6, 2012. A multipurpose facility, the Center allows Harbor House to accept and store donations in large quantities, such as cleaning supplies, paper products, linens and bedding, mattresses, food, and pet supplies. We also accept donations for families transitioning to housing, such as large appliances, furniture, kitchen items (cutlery, pots and pans, dishes, etc.) and more. The Center is also the hub for donation drives, such as Gifts of Hope, Holiday Store, and Back-to-School Backpacks. Since its opening, over $1.4M worth of goods have been donated to domestic violence victims and their families.
These two programs bring together advocates, law enforcement, child protective services, and animal services to reduce intimate partner homicides and serious injury, while increasing the successful prosecution and accountability to batterers. Currently, we have EVE advocates in 4 of the 12 municipalities in Orange County who identify high lethality cases and refer them to Harbor House for emergency intervention. In FY2015/16, the InVEST/EVE team reviewed 5,639 police reports, identifying 1,943 victims “in a high lethality relationship” and qualified to receive services. While 272 personal appointments were made, only 14% accepted services.
Michelle Sperzel, who holds an MBA, a CFRE, and brings more than 19 years of experience aiding women in crisis, has been named the new CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida. Ms. Sperzel will start her new role in January, focusing on strategic and operational leadership of the nonprofit organization. Ms. Sperzel comes to Harbor House from Girls in the Games, a leading girls’ health and fitness organization in Chicago, IL. There she served as the CEO and implemented a long-term strategic and expansion plan. Prior to that, Ms. Sperzel served as the Executive Director of Shelter House Domestic and Sexual Violence Center in Fort Walton Beach, FL, where she started numerous survivor-defined programs, including literacy, economic justice, youth and prevention, transitional housing, and an on-site kennel at the emergency shelter. In addition, Ms. Sperzel and her staff were presented with the Governor’s Promote Peace, Prevent Domestic Violence award for creating and implementing a model youth prevention program that addressed stereotypes, self-esteem and bullying. Sperzel also has served on numerous boards and been involved with several community projects that address family violence, homelessness, and social justice. The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), the statewide association representing Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers, commended the Harbor House Board of Directors on their selection of Ms. Sperzel.
To reach our goal to end the cycle of domestic abuse, Harbor House collaborates with multiple partners:
Apopka Police Department, Catholic Charities, Children's Home Services, Community Based Care (CBC), Community Coordinated Care of Central Florida, Department of Children and Families, East Orange County Community Center (DCF), Family Promise, Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), Heart of Florida United Way, Help Now of Osceola, Inc., Homeless Services Network (HSN), Northwest Community Center, Orange County: Sherriff Office (OCSO), Government, Department of Corrections, Public Schools, Orlando Police Department (OPD), Pine Hills Community Center, SafeHouse of Seminole, Second Harvest Food Bank, The Salvation Army, UCF/Project Harmony, United Against Poverty (formerly Community Food & Outreach).
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Central Florida Foundation 800 N Magnolia AvenueSuite 1200 Orlando, FL 32803 p. 407.872.3050 f. 407.425.2990