Located in Harrisonburg, Mercy House is a faith-based nonprofit focused on preventing homelessness and providing aid for families within Rockingham, Augusta and Page counties. By offering shelter and support programs for people in need, it works to provide a sense of normalcy for families as they work to restore self-sufficiency and overcome housing instability.
Under the guidance of Executive Director Shannon Porter, Mercy House combats homelessness by supplying food, clothing and shelter for families in need.
“My path to being a shelter director is a long one,” Porter said.
Starting out in the for-profit sector, Porter made a mid-career transition and said the switch to nonprofit work was the best thing he’s ever done.
After meeting the founder of Habitat for Humanity during a work trip in Mexico, a passion was ignited that led him to become the president of Rehousing and Stabilization Services for HAPHousing Inc., one of the largest family homeless operations in the country serving over 600 families. Porter joined the Mercy House team in 2014 and now has over 15 years of involvement in homeless services.
“The best thing about this agency by far is the people who work here and the heart that they have for the community,” Porter said. “Most of our staff has been here long-term, and they really believe in our mission. Our staff feels like family. We care about the work we do and support each other.”
The housing market in Harrisonburg has less than a 2% vacancy rate, resulting in a lack of available units and rising prices. Mercy House is one of the few shelters in Virginia that provides families with clean, private living spaces. Families facing homelessness are given the keys to their own apartment with a kitchen, common area and bed space. Recently, the nonprofit expanded its efforts to secure and maintain affordable properties, so families can afford housing and return to self-sufficiency.
“We’re very fortunate that we are able to get people back in housing,” Porter said. “For us, it’s the ultimate measure of whether we’re successful and what touches my heart the most.”
Porter’s hard work and dedication to public service has enabled Mercy House to grow over the past 10 years. In 2016, it expanded the Rapid Rehousing program, rehoming 50 more households per year. In 2020, Mercy House launched its local Rent and Mortgage Relief program, preventing 327 evictions. This year, it served a total of 91 individuals and 65 households.