Bethesda News

Our Prevention Strategy

I would be a rich man if I had $100 for every time someone asked something like, “It’s great that Bethesda Mission helps so many men and women recover from homelessness, addictions, and abuse, but what are you doing to prevent the problem?”

Bethesda Mission obviously spends a lot of time and money treating those who have already found themselves homeless. You could say we’re “experts” at this. But our numbers are only increasing! More and more individuals are finding themselves in need of help after their lives have become derailed.

You may be surprised to learn that we do have a prevention strategy in action. But first, let’s look at some of the root causes of the problem.

Based on the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH)’s 2016 Point in Time survey, homeless individuals in Harrisburg identified the following as the top 4 primary causes:

• Drugs & Alcohol
• Mental Health
• Family Break-up
• Job Loss

Notice that nobody simply said, “I couldn’t find a house.” As you can see, the things that cause someone to become homeless are not that simple. Many of these are deep, complicated issues, and many can be traced back to childhood.

We strongly believe that lasting change is most likely through relationships: a relationship with God and supportive relationships with others. This principle is the driving force throughout all our ministries. Everyone needs a support-system and we believe we can provide a strong, stable, and positive one.

But what if that support-system is already in place when crises hit? What if it’s not about getting the train back on the tracks, but about keeping the train on the tracks to begin with? That’s what we’re trying to do at Bethesda Mission’s Community Center.

We’ve been focusing on children and teenagers in the northern section of Alison Hill for over 25 years, and our efforts are paying off. To my knowledge, none of those kids have ended up at one of our shelters as adults. On the most basic level, I’d call that a tremendous success! High School graduation statistics also back me up:

• Graduation rate at Harrisburg High School: 51%
Graduation rate of teens who’ve been a part of our program for 2 years or more: 86%

And these kids did not have an easy start! The odds have been stacked against them – about half are living below the poverty line, and most are from single-parent homes. But that’s why we’re working so hard to create and build-up their support-systems to include the Community Center staff, other kids who attend the Center, family members, and neighbors, while laying the foundation for a faith in the Lord that will withstand any trial thrown in their paths.

I am convinced that there is no better way to show the Harrisburg community that we are committed to tackling the issues causing homelessness head on and preventing it from occurring than through the Community Center. I hope that you will join me in championing this cause.

You’ve probably heard about our efforts to expand and renovate the Community Center. We’re on track to begin construction this fall and complete the project the following year. I’m especially excited about this project, not just because of the larger building, but because of the additional children, teens, and families we’ll be able to reach and the brand new programs and resources we’ll be able to offer.

Plus, there are lots of ways that you and others in the larger community can get involved! We’ll be looking for a wide range of volunteers very soon. For example, a receptionist, chaperones, reading comprehension tutors, creative arts teachers, maintenance help and more.

Will you support our efforts to create impenetrable support-systems for men, women, and children in need of stability and care? Through your gifts, you have become a significant part of that support-system as well – we couldn’t do it without you. And please pray for the kids and families impacted by the Community Center, that our efforts at prevention would be fruitful and that their hearts would be softened to give their lives to Christ.

It’s a simple choice, really: invest a little now to change lives today for generations to come, or pay a lot later on, both in finances and hurting people. Looking forward to sharing the stories of changed lives and crises prevented for many years to come.


Scott Dunwoody
Executive Director


“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! …a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” –Eccelsiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)

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