Liberty House celebrates 10 years
Ten years is a long-time coming for what started as a small venture by a group of passionate women who are devoted to helping others.
What they started is Liberty House, a partnership between the YWCA of Northcentral PA and the Lycoming County United Way.
The program is designed to help women who are in a tight spot in their life; whether it’s financial problems, drug addiction, illness, abuse, or they have nowhere to go.
In honor of Liberty House’s anniversary, on Friday they held a celebration and invited many members of the community who helped establish the program, and staff and program participants.
They discussed how the idea for the program was born, and many of their trials and triumphs when the program began. While a happy landmark for this program, tears were not absent from attendees eyes when the hardships women face were brought up. Quickly followed, too, were tears of joy when stories of success were voiced.
One of these success stories included that of the Liberty House’s case manager, Diane Hake. Hake was not always a case manager, but started as a former program participant. She came to the house in 2005 after battling problems of her own. She told a story of losing her job, her home, her vehicle and ultimately everything in her life.
“I had an empty key chain,” she said. “When I came to Liberty House they gave me a little spot in the house and a key. I was able to put a key back on my key chain,” she said.
Thus, her life began to re-build.
Liberty House’s founder and former director, Vanessa Hunter, told the audience the story of the birth of the initiative – in January of 2002, a homeless woman and her child in need approached the YWCA with no other options.
“It broke my heart,” said Hunter, “That could have been me and my daughter. There are women and children who don’t have a place to live. I thought, I don’t see how the YWCA can continue to let this go on.”
She got in touch with United Way and the program began to unfurl, but not without help from the community.
Also in attendance was former Lycoming County commissioner, Rebecca Burke. She did her part to support the project as an elected official at the time of the program’s inception.
“This was not like building the Market Street bridge. (With the bridge) we had to think, this bridge has to last the next 50 years. When we did the Liberty House and worked together, I don’t think any of us really thought out 10 years. We were busy looking at the next ten days or months,” she said.
After a decade of continued successful operation, the house has provided a home to more than 500 women and more than 250 children. There is such a demand for the service, in fact, that now they operate from a waiting list.
“Unfortunately the sad news about today is there’s a waiting list. So the homeless needs and the needs of the less fortunate in this community need to continue to be addressed. And I hope the partnerships formed (through the project) will continue to work toward this effort to fulfill the needs,” Burke said.
Liberty House has reached a decade in operation, but they are not done making improvements. They still have goals in sight, one of which, according to Hunter, is to establish more trauma-informed support.
Both Liberty House and the YWCA are a hub for those who want to help. Leigh Ann Edmondson, a recent college graduate, started at Liberty House initially as an intern and decided to stay. She is now an in-house case worker along with Mae-Ling Kranz, the Liberty House manager.
They are in charge of looking at each woman’s case and attending to their needs on a very specific basis.
“We assess where they are, what goals they have and what they’re looking for. We develop an individual service plan for them, so each one is different,” said Kranz.
Members of the Liberty House give an unconditional support system that results in many cases of success.
To learn more about Liberty House and the YWCA, visit www.ywcawilliamsport.org.