ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Sisters Ariyanna and Jamylleah Owens woke up on an air mattress in an empty Glen Burnie apartment on Wednesday (Nov. 27) morning.
Thirty minutes later, after a knock on the door and a stampede of feet hoisting furniture up and down three flights of stairs, the apartment shared by the Glen Burnie High School students was suddenly bursting with chairs, dressers, tables, nightstands, lamps, a couch and most importantly — a bed.
The Owens sisters are recent recipients of a program called “Turning Houses into Homes,” run by Christian ministry Hope For All, based in Anne Arundel County. The ministry provides furniture and other necessities for people transitioning from homelessness into affordable housing or people without sufficient resources.
Nearly half of the families served by Hope For All have children in the public school system.
Ariyanna, 18, and Jamylleah, 17, moved into an apartment on Mary Lane in October. The sisters work part-time jobs at Jersey Mikes and Boston Market to support themselves while attending Glen Burnie High school. Holding her sister’s hand and sitting in one of four new kitchen chairs scattered around the room, Jamylleah said she always planned on buying furniture for the bare rooms but didn’t have the money to fill an unfurnished apartment.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, now that we have furniture everything’s going to be fine,’ but it’s a big weight off our shoulders,” said Jamylleah Owens, a magnet student at Glen Burnie High’s BioMedical Allied Health Program.
Outside, Hope for All volunteers and staff unload furniture from a U-haul that was packed at the ministry’s 14,000 square foot warehouse. Clothing, basic houseware and furniture are meticulously organized in the warehouse so donations can easily be sorted and transported to families in need. Most of the pots, pans, clothes, linens and furniture are donated to the nonprofit by community members.
Roger Potter, logistics manager for Hope For All, heaves a mattress up the stairs and leans it against the apartment wall. Children living in poverty often sleep on the floor, Potter said. The nonprofit buys new beds for every family they help, a purchase that, along with buying new dressers, totaled $59,000 last year — one of the organization’s largest expenses.
“One time … we had delivered to a mom with some kids, and one of the kids said to her mother ‘I’ll do better in school now that I have a bed to sleep on,’” Potter said.
The nonprofit also provides towels, sheets and blankets.
The sisters said they are excited to have such basic items, especially sheets and blankets because they get cold at night.
“Lots of blessings are coming to this apartment,” Ariyanna said.
Hope For All’s “House into Homes” program served 324 families and delivered 466 beds last year. Through November, four months into the fiscal year, the organization distributed 189 beds, averaging 31 families a month, said Leo Zerhusen, found for Hope For All. He estimates the organization will serve 388 families next year.
The demand for the organization’s service has grown rapidly in the past five years, with the most need from residents of Glen Burnie and Annapolis. Agencies and schools partnered with Hope For All refer families for help at a “constant” rate that’s on pace to require the nonprofit to purchase around 570 new beds this year, Zerhusen said.
In four months, the nonprofit has used 61% of its budget on furniture, beds, dressers and love seats. If the nonprofit doesn’t secure more funding soon, it estimates it will run at a deficit of $80,000 and be limited in its ability to buy new beds.
Zerhusen spoke before the Anne Arundel County delegation this month to request $50,000 to manage operational and program costs. Around 77% of the organization’s funding comes from individual donations and grants.
Hope For All also hosts a yard sale at its warehouse twice a month on Saturdays and Thursdays. Marketed as “2,000 square feet of shopping space,” the yard sale rakes in around $5,000 a month.
For the families and children throughout the county that have their houses turned into homes, the gifts can feel like a new beginning.
“I’m happy,” Jamylleah said. “I’m really happy.”
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