Q&A: Safe Harbor of Chester County’s Judy Jeffords-Homitz

The CEO shares her passion for helping the homeless.

Armed with an MBA and a master’s degree in public health, Judy Jeffords-Homitz has dedicated her career to nonprofits. She was the CFO of Safe Harbor of Chester County for more than six years before being named its CEO in December 2017, further dedicating herself to helping the homeless and food insecure.

Judy Jeffords-Homitz’s Five Favorite Things

1. A Tale of Two Cities. “It had such an impact on me wanting to absorb more literature and not just mainstream fiction.”

2. Chester County Historical Society. “As far as thinking about Chester County, it’s been interesting being able to see these little pieces of Americana.”

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3. The Graduate, Miracle, Field of Dreams, Norma Rae. “I go for things where the downtrodden come out better in the end.”

4. Marshall Square Park. “That’s where I go to exercise when I run. It was also a go-to with my daughter.”

5. Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt. “I listen to more old stuff than contemporary.”

MLT: What inspired you to get involved with Safe Harbor?

JJH: I have been working in non-profits basically my entire adult life. I have a master’s degree in public health, so I did direct service in health education. Eventually I came to the University of Pennsylvania to get my MBA in healthcare and finance, but I still stayed in the non-profit area when I graduated. My husband had volunteered at Safe Harbor and I saw a note that they needed someone to come do their books. I was Safe Harbor’s CFO for [over five years], when this position became vacant. It’s just such a great organization.

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MLT: How does Safe Harbor work?

JJH: We have emergency shelter beds for single men and single women; anybody within the entire county can come to our shelter. We also know there’s a hunger need in our area, so we developed a community lunch program that anyone in the community can come to—it’s not just for our residents. During the winter months, we provide it seven days a week from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. [The rest of the year] it’s six days a week. If we have gotten extra food donations or sometimes clothing donations, we have an area where they can get a bag and take some extra things with them because at any given night in Chester County, one in 10 residents are food insecure. We try to address that.

MLT: What are some of the extreme weather threats to the homeless?

JJH: There are certain temperatures [that are unsafe] and the county puts out a Code Red or a Code Blue. They’re basically telling people that they really need to seek shelter because when you’re out in extreme conditions you can become dehydrated. It doesn’t take long for heat stroke or exhaustion [to set in]. During these extreme conditions, we can take additional residents—we have some cots. We also have a warming and cooling station so that anyone can come in from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. if they’re not a resident just to get warm or to cool off and get some water. It’s not just a winter problem; extreme heat can create havoc.

MLT: What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

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JJH: When you see people that are able to move on in whatever way works best for them. For instance, we had a boyfriend and girlfriend that were here—they were on different floors—but they were here together and they recently exited our shelter into housing and are both employed. There are people who really just need shelter while they are waiting to get into a program; it’s those kinds of things, knowing there are people that just need a little help, and we’re able to provide that for them.

Visit safeharborofgwc.org.

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