John Morgan pledges $1M for new Central Florida Harbor House shelter

Harbor House photo 101415

Thousands of domestic abuse victims – men, women and children – seek out Central Florida’s Harbor House as a safe haven each year. But the cluster of dilapidated 1976 buildings is not the best place for families in crisis.

Orlando Attorney John Morgan and his wife Ultima announced Tuesday they will donate $1 million to help build a new $7.4 million state-of-the-art shelter. Contributions of an additional $2 million from Orange County, and $750,000 from the City of Orlando, will come through community block grants.

Harbor House approached the Morgans about a major gift in exchange for naming the new facility, John Morgan said. They felt the project was worthwhile, sustainable and they liked the idea their money would go toward protecting women.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that’s what guides us,” Morgan said. “I have a daughter and these women were little girls once upon a time.”

The 27,500 square foot, 119-bed emergency facility will be called the Morgan & Morgan Home – A Safe Haven for Families. It will open in fall 2016. Harbor House has launched the public phase of a capital campaign to finish the building with plans to raise another $3 million.

Last year, Harbor House reached 15,000 people through its outreach services, but the 102-bed shelter has averaged 147 people living temporarily on a daily basis at its campus. The new facility will house up to 136 parents and children in 20 bedrooms. It will also have private bedrooms for moms and newborns, guests with disabilities and men with children.

“Our survivors face life and death situations, so we always find a place for them to stay,” said Executive Director Carol Wick. “When we’re over capacity, they have to stay on cots, sofas and air mattresses with no privacy and no private bathroom. It’s critical we provide a place where survivors can immediately begin to regain their dignity.

Ruffin Rhodes, project architect with Rhodes+Brito and a Harbor House board member, donated preliminary design work for the shelter, which he calls “Building Courage,” after the courage it takes survivors to leave their abusers.

The design was based on standards established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded research by the Washington State Coalition against Domestic Violence to determine best practices for short-term housing for domestic abuse survivors. Harbor House is one of the first shelters to use the design and will share it with other shelters around the world.

VOA Architects and Collage Companies have offered to waive any additional design fees for any organization wishing to replicate the Harbor House model, at a saving of $220,000.

The total cost of the project includes a facility endowment with yearly proceeds to maintain each donor’s investment. Harbor House estimates approximately 60,000 people in Central Florida experience an abusive relationship each year. At least 2,000 of them are homeless, or in danger of losing their homes, due to domestic violence. Half of those survivors are children, most under the age of 5. The average emergency stay for a Harbor House family is 70 to 80 days.

Leaders shovel dirt at the ground breaking of the site of the future state-of-the-art domestic abuse shelter in Orange County
Leaders shovel dirt at the ground breaking for a state-of-the-art domestic abuse shelter
Architectural rendering of the Morgan & Morgan Home, A Safe Haven for Families, Central Florida's new $7.4 million domestic abuse shelter
Architectural rendering of the Morgan & Morgan Home, A Safe Haven for Families, Central Florida’s new $7.4 million domestic abuse shelter

Susan Clary

One comment

  • Kimberly Williams

    November 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Carol Wick tells lies. She cares about the money in her pocket. Harbor House is only able to help a few the rest either have to return to abuser or find themselves worse of and homeless with no where to go. [email protected] please get in touch with me for my full testamony

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