“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
In 1988, a group of Harrisonburg citizens began talking about the plight of the homeless. The group was led by Roy Early, Judge John Paul and Louise Tate. The group met at the Early Photography Studio on Bruce Street and found that their interest was especially centered on homeless families with children.
Chiefly concerned with family unity, the group of citizens felt it was important to empower families with the ability to overcome homelessness together. After several meetings, the group rented a house on Country Club Road and painted and furnished it to house three families. It did not take long before it became apparent that community needs were much larger than housing three families.
On August 12, 1988, the group became incorporated, wrote bylaws and established Mercy House as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Two years later, Mercy House was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and bought the properties at 243 and 247 North High Street. These two buildings housed the administrative offices and 8 apartments.
Acquiring Additional Facilities
In 1993, local resident Frances Phalen Hornsby left her home as legacy to Mercy House with the stipulation that it be used “to house the homeless.” With funding from the Harrisonburg Rockingham Housing Authority, the Phalen house was completely refurbished and converted into 4 apartments and still serves as a shelter annex for our agency.
In 2013, the agency the acquired property that now houses its administrative offices at 305 N. High Street allowing Mercy House to serve the public at large through its Rapid Re-Housing and Homelessness Prevention Programs while preserving the privacy of our shelter residents.
In 2017, the 247 North High Street Building was renovated and rededicated as the Mercy House Residential Resource Center.
After three decades Mercy House continues to serve only families with dependent children and maintain focus on building and strengthening family unity. By teaching families about the importance of living and working together, each individual has the support that enables them to reach his or her highest potential. Our motto is “Changing the world one family at a time.” We see the positive outcomes of change through our residents and we know that our neighborhood is a better, safer and more prosperous community because families have been given a chance to grow and improve their way of life.