For almost 150 years, Homeland Center has been providing a wide array of services to meet the needs of the residents of the Harrisburg region. For the first time since the introduction of hospice services, which was about eight years ago, Homeland will be adding two new “at home” services – HomeCare and HomeHealth.
Homeland Center is the embodiment in bricks and mortar of over a century of caring and innovation. The big old house that was built on the site in 1871 still stands, flanked by newer construction added over the years as the men and women of the Homeland family expanded, refined, and redefined their mission. Originally chartered as the “Home for the Friendless,” today Homeland Center is a Personal Care Home and Skilled Nursing Facility providing a wide variety of services to the aging population of the greater Harrisburg area.
Homeland’s story begins in the winter of 1866, in the aftermath of the Civil War. Battlefield casualties were not the only human losses of that conflict, as soldiers’ wives, widows, and parents struggled to provide for dependent family members without the support of dead and disabled husbands and sons. In December of 1866, the Harrisburg Patriot called attention to “the large number of children who are daily to be seen on our streets in a ragged, forlorn condition.”
Just a few weeks earlier, on November 21, representatives of nine city churches had met to consider what might be done to help the “friendless persons” of Harrisburg and Dauphin County. They concluded, a “Home for the Friendless” to shelter those women and children was needed. The “Society for the Home for the Friendless” was formally chartered in May of 1867.
A year later, the Society had raised sufficient funds to begin operations in a rented house downtown at Third and Mulberry. Their dream, though, was to build a house of their own, and in November of 1870 they broke ground for the house that still stands at Fifth and Muench.
For the first forty years, the “Home for the Friendless” admitted both children (almost exclusively young girls) and elderly women. The Managers and Trustees carried out a dual mission of providing for the health and comfort of the elderly residents as well as educating the children for placement in secure occupations when it came time for them to leave. An ambitious expansion project in 1909-1910 updated and modernized the Home.
The renaissance that saw the transformation of the “Home for the Friendless” into Homeland Center began in the 1950s. Small changes early in the decade, such as the addition of a beauty parlor in 1953 and an unofficial name change to “Homeland Center” in 1955, indicated a new way of thinking about the institution and its residents. In 1959, north and south wings were added to the building, allowing for the admission of men for the first time. At the same time, the existing “infirmary” was upgraded to a modern skilled nursing unit.
Today, Homeland provides a wide array of services to the citizens of the greater Harrisburg area, including personal care services, skilled nursing care, and a safe and secure environment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. For all of these people, Homeland is what the founders intended it to be: a home. Homeland Center looks back to the values and idealism of the 1860s. At the same time, it looks forward to new ways of living and new ways of caring.