In 2007, members of the Interfaith Association recognized a need for a homeless shelter in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham area that would be low-barrier and available to those who are not eligible to stay at other shelters. This low-barrier philosophy means that all who are homeless and over the age of 18 are welcome in our shelter when they have nowhere else to go. At the time, those who work with the homeless population estimated that anywhere from 8 to 20 people were on the streets at night, regardless of temperature and weather conditions.
Thanks to the great work of a task force made up of local clergy, members of faith communities, as well as social services and housing authority representatives, the non-profit organization known as HARTS (Harrisonburg And Rockingham Thermal Shelter) was officially created on November 27, 2007.
In 2013, the decision was made to begin the process of looking to the future and how we want to be known to our guests and to our community.
In choosing our new name, we wanted to convey to those who are in need of shelter that our doors are always open to them. Furthermore, as we move into the future and have recognized needs to expand our program to include case management and referral services. We want to open doors for our clients to provide them resources that will help to end the cycle of chronic homelessness.
Thanks to the help of Gravity Group, our new name - Open Doors, was chosen and implemented in the Fall of 2013.
Today, Open Doors is dedicated to providing a warm, safe space for guests to stay and a hot meal. In partnership with other community organizations, we work diligently to ensure that all guests receive the required services. This includes collaborating with the Suitcase Clinic, which provides in-house services to guests each Wednesday evening.
In mid-2022, the City of Harrisonburg purchased the former Presbytery and announced that the grounds would be home to the City's first permanent low-barrier shelter. Construction will occur in a phased approach, with an estimated operational date of November 2023. Until then, Open Doors continues a rotating model through the thermal season, and anticipates operating the permanent low-barrier shelter when the project is completed.