Tammy Harden: Real estate broker turned advocate for the homeless

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

(Courtesy Tammy Harden)
(Courtesy Tammy Harden)

Tammy Harden had never met a homeless person before volunteering with a winter shelter in Williamsburg four years ago.

The experience led her to team up with the 3e Restoration organization, where today she works as the executive director. Harden now interacts with homeless individuals and families on a daily basis, helping them secure a place to stay and a way for them to get back on their feet.

3e Restoration is the brainchild of Fred Liggin, a pastor at Williamsburg Christian Church who came up with the idea for the organization after encountering a homeless family at his church a few years ago. The organization provides permanent housing and resources as well as fellowship to those in need.

Harden uses her background as a former real estate agent and broker to work with landlords and management companies to find housing for those who turn to 3e Restoration for services. Most are referred to 3e Restoration by other organizations such as social services, the United Way, or the Community of Faith Mission, another faith-based organization that runs a homeless shelter during the winter months.

“One of the biggest needs is housing,” Harden said. “There is no affordable housing here, especially for people with extensive barriers, so sometimes we need to be creative. Our initial goal is to get people housed so they can begin to focus on restoration.”

In addition to providing access to housing, temporary rental assistance, and housing-based care management, 3e Restoration has trained mentors known as Servant Leader Coordinators who serve as the relational team leader, assisting those in need with reaching their goals.

“They may coordinate teams of ‘All in Friends’ to drive them where they need to go, help them fill out applications, obtain health and dental services, or teach them how to shop or garden,” said Harden. “They do whatever is needed. Sometimes that may mean just sharing a cup of coffee and being a friend.”

Six churches in Williamsburg currently partner with 3e Restoration, Inc., both as ministry partners and supporters.

“The idea is to encourage, equip, and empower our friends in need,” Harden explained. “At some point in life, we all have needs, and some people just happen to have particular needs and we are here to support them.”

Harden described 3e Restoration as a process rather than a program, one that takes a holistic approach to helping those who may be struggling. Since January, 37 individuals have utilized the organization’s housing services.

“First and foremost, we are about building relationships,” Harden said. “We know people by name and we know their stories. We come to know them as individuals first, we understand their barriers, and we don’t walk away from them.”

Harden also assists the program director with housing location and stabilization. Harden shared the story of a 23-year-old woman who is overcoming addiction and reaching incredible milestones with the help of community-based treatment and her extensive support network through a 3e Restoration church ministry. To witness a person turning their life around is rewarding, Harden said.

“It’s the reason I do what I do,” Harden said. “I could not imagine doing anything else.”

Liggin said Harden is a good fit for 3e Restoration.

“Tammy embodies the values of 3e Restoration: gracious hospitality, relentless hope, compassion, a posture of listening, a belief in restorative justice, a willingness to discover surprising friendships, and the highest ethic of all, love,” he said. “There is no doubt that her many certifications and professional experience, especially when it comes to housing, brings an unparalleled level of expertise to our work.”

Harden is hoping to explore more church and community partnerships with 3e Restoration. “We want to continue to build relationships with local professionals and employers who are willing to be part of our network,” she said.

She would also like to dispel myths about homelessness, particularly in an area like Williamsburg, where most people find it hard to believe that homelessness is an issue.

“I want people to understand the barriers and the struggles that some people have, and I want to change how people view those who are homeless and living in poverty,” Harden said.

For more information on 3e Restoration, visit 3erestoration.com.

Read more profiles of local residents in WYDaily’s new section In Our Hometown