Mount Airy: Shelter Works to Find Homes for Families

Bishop Morris and the Mount Airy Church of God have managed the Stenton Family Manor for 20 years]

Many homeless shelters across the country come with a negative stigma. Oftentimes, assumptions are made about those in need–drug problems, crime and teen pregnancy usually stand at the forefront of those judgments. The staff and residents of Stenton Family Manor, however, are trying to put an end to that stigma.

As a faith-based shelter, the manor, which is located at 1300 E. Tulpehocken St., has developed over the last 20 years into a well-rounded emergency family shelter.

Robert Harrison is the executive director of Stenton Family Manor.

Rev. Robert Harrison, executive director of program, has been a part of the growth process and has seen a lot of positive changes come out of the manor. Local businesses have gotten involved with the shelter, providing work opportunities for residents. Local schools such as Martin Luther King and Anna Blakiston Day School work with children from the shelter to improve their education and overall schooling experience while their families look for housing. “AB Day has been a phenomenal support for us. They have embraced our children,” Harrison said. A unique benefit of AB Day has been their acceptance of children in the middle of any semester. Kids have often come to the shelter during the school year and AB Day school has worked with the kids, Harrison said, even if they come to school in the middle of a test.

Support from the community is the first step to turning lives around, and that is what Harrison and CEO and pastor at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, Bishop Ernest Morris, see as the turning point for the manor. “One of the things we had to do was change the mentality of the staff. That has so much to do with it. We’re not just housing people. These are human beings,” Morris said, “Once we changed the mentality of the staff, then we begin working on the residents. We tell them, ‘When you’re in a crowded situation like that, everybody has got to work together.’”

Bishop Morris and the Mount Airy Church of God have managed Stenton Family Manor for 20 years.

Harrison shared the same sentiments, which is why the manor has had such success over the past 20 years. The staff, the residents and the church all work together as a family to build relationships and grow within the community. It is much easier to find cohesion when the people working at the manor were once residents of it.

At least 50 percent of the current staff, Harrison said, were once residents, working their way out of struggles. Theresa Lammons lived at the manor when it first opened from 1991 to 1993 and is now a shift supervisor. At the time she had two young children whom she says are very happy and successful today and still come back to the shelter to visit. “I was homeless. I didn’t have anywhere to go and I couldn’t go to family. Someone suggested to go to the shelter but I didn’t think that was such a good idea. If I didn’t, my kids would have been out on the streets. So I did and it wasn’t so bad,” Lammons said.

Her experience at the manor put her in a position to pay off all of her outstanding bills, become a homeowner and be more informed on how to maintain her finances. Lammons’ situation is exactly the scenario that Harrison sees on a daily basis and is the reason why he said he thinks the negativity towards the term “shelter” shouldn’t be. “I see it as a positive step. I see it as a place where you can restructure your foundation. Get your thoughts together and let us help you with your children. While they can work on getting their documentation together, getting their housing together, getting their finances together, we try to support that,” Harrison said.

The Weavers Way Co-op operates a full garden in the yards of Stenton Family Manor.

That support obviously extends beyond Lammons, but her story is just like hundreds of others, said Morris, who is always happy to employ former residents. Their willingness to help others who are in the same position they once were shows a true change of character. “They have a knowledge of what it’s like. They have a sensitivity for it. We have seen literally hundreds of families get back on their feet,” Morris said.

Those successes, Harrison said, are always eager to stay in the community because of how well they have been treated. “Once you come here, you are a part of this family. To be able to live in this community and to help rebuild this community, I think it’s essential for us to try to find housing in the Northwest community. When the children and the families leave here they want to stay in the Northwest. The children say ‘I want to be a part of this community. I love this community because they loved on me,’” Harrison said.

Both Harrison and Morris agreed that although the economy is poor and the finances are not there currently to find a lot of housing in the region, they are always looking for support from the neighborhood to allow families to stay. Harrison reiterated that low income does not mean bad people, and once that stigma is gone it will be much easier for everyone to come together and help these people find the housing they need in the neighborhoods.


  1. Thanks for doing a story on this worthy cause. I have attended a workshop with Rich Harrison and he has the personality and leadership skills to continue making a difference in the lives of numerous people. Well done!

  2. Hello! I live in the neighborhood and go to ITT Tech studying criminal justice and I would like to volunteer on Fridays to talk to people and make them feel comfortable in any way I can. This would help help a great deal with my internship. My number is 267-600-2967 Thank you so much for your time Marquita Hickman

  3. AkeHi,my name is Larry Jones & I’m a vet. I’m homeless, with 5 children and my feaincee.we’ve been at the red sheild salvation army on broad st
    For 1 night there’s no room and we truly need a place while the va gives us a housing voucher. This should take about 4 weeks or less please HELP us 267 2338166 Thank You Very.Much

  4. have four children residing with me in west Philadelphia area we have been going through some hardship while keeping the faith in the Lord today we are being asked to vacation the apartment in 30days or to fix not living with electric now we been staying with family while our lights been off I hair want to get somewhere stable before school starts for my babies if you can help just dread any I kinda shelter so I was lead to look for a Christian shelters. My number is 267_850_8023

  5. Hi my name is Vanessa and I am in a bad situation. I’m getting kicked out of where I live on the first and I have a 16 month old baby and I have no one to help. My fiance is the only one I had and he went to prison. I only get SSI and need to find a place quick but I can’t be somewhere I’m not safe or too picky. I’m not from Philly but everywhere I find a place there’s always a reason I don’t qualify. If anyone knows where I can get a place cheap/room/studo ect. Please let me know or a shelter that won’t be unsafe my names Vanessa and number is 2673206513 thanks for reading my post GOD BLESS

  6. its me and my babyfather and three children homeless dont have anywhere to go we need help bad

  7. I work with Veterans who are at risk for homelessness or currently experiencing homelessness. I would love to speak with someone who could assist me in speaking with the clients and/or staff to tell them about the services and programs at the Veterans Multi-Service Center..

  8. I’m a single disabled mother with no income only stamps I’ve been disable since 09 and going back and fourth to court since 09 I’ll be going again in about 8 weeks or so. Meanwhile I’m in a 3bed room with my two sons the home is overcrowded it’s 11 people not including me and my boys. I have services but know ones really helping I’ve been asking since Sept 16 for housing help til my situation changes I have a son whom comes out of placement in a few weeks and he graduates from 12th grade this year and my other son graduates n from 8th grade. I’d really appreciate some information. Thank you and God bless

  9. Hello my name is Teena, I am residing in Philadelphia with my 7mo old daughter and my boyfriend. We are illegally being evicted, we were never given the eviction notice and now we have a warrant of removal for 2/12/17. I just got hired as a HHA last week and started 4 days ago, my boyfriend is also employed Downtown center city as a dishwasher! I am not from Philadelphia and don’t have anyone to stay with for a month or 2 until we get our text return! His mother doesn’t have the space for us and suggested we go to a shelter instead of offering the couch! I am looking for a security deposit or shelter for my family for a temporary solution so I can have stable back in my life and further our careers! I am truly walking by faith and not by sight!! Prayer is the only thing that works for us, we are struggling and battling one another because we want nothing more then the best for our children and one another!! Please if you know of any agency and are able to shelter us for a short period of time please call 215-520-5159 Thanks GOD BE WITH YOU

  10. Please help me and my seven year old with a temporary place to stay I am relocating for work, I haven’t been able to find work were I live to help pay my rent so I am currently homeless I got a good job offer in Philadelphia but I need a home or some where to live until I can find a home while I am working, I need help and I don’t want to lose this job opportunity please help us!

  11. At this point I am begging for help. I was living with a friend in north Philadelphia and a report was made to DHS and they came to her home and removed my children. The only thing keeping me from getting them out of states custody is for me to get some type of housing. My Cua worker is trying to find us a shelter, but I’m also looking and reaching out on my own as well.. I’m trying so hard and fighting to get my sons back

  12. I stayed there with my son in may 2017-August 2017 I was in and out of the hospital. While I was in the hospital my things was style stolen my clothes was ruined and no one did anything to help me.

  13. Hello my name is shantay. My boyfriend and I been homeless for some time and I have three children that I don’t see because I’m not stable we’ve been looking for a job since we’ve became homeless and nothing has came through because we don’t have a place to live. I truly hope you can help us because I really want to see my children again.

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