Allebaugh’s deep legacy

Jan. 26, 2014 @ 05:46 PM

The tagline at Housing for New Hope’s website is brief and to the point:

“Preventing and Ending Homelessness, One Valuable Person at a Time.”

Few people have done more in the past two decades to address that mission than Terry Allebaugh.  Rumpled, passionate, affable but relentlessly persistent, Allebaugh has been a leader in the daunting task of preventing and ending homelessness in Durham. The founder of Housing for New Hope and its executive director since its formation in 1992, Allebaugh has also been a leader in rallying the community and its leaders to the cause of housing the homeless in Durham.

Thus his announcement last week he will step down later this year had a profound impact on those who have joined– and benefitted from – his unstinting crusade. “It was just one of those feelings like an elephant standing on my chest,” Sam Whitted, a Housing for New Hope tenant advocate and board member, told The Herald-Sun’s Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan.  “He’s taken Housing for New Hope to the top of the mountain, so to speak.”

Whitted should know. He was an early graduate of Phoenix House, which Allebaugh launched as he was founding the housing organization in the early 1990s. (Acknowledging changing government priorities and an expansion of transitional housing options, Housing for New Hope announced it was closing Phoenix House days before Allebaugh’s announcement of his plans.)

One of Allebaugh’s constant messages – and a philosophy that underlay Housing for New Hope’s approach – was that homelessness is complicated. People seldom end up on the street for a single reason – although a catalytic event or misfortune may be the immediate cause.

Allebaugh attacked homelessness from multiple directions simultaneously. As the organization’s website says, it provides “increased access to healthcare, integrated services and housing.” The goal is not simply to get a homeless person under a roof – it is to help him or her obtain and retain permanent housing and leave homeless camps or shelters behind forever.

He has rallied a broad spectrum of the community in that quest. The organization says it is “supported by more than 750 individuals, 22 congregations, more than 20 businesses and civic organizations, six foundations, and federal, state, and local government agencies.” The congregation reference is important – faith leaders like Haywood Holderness, now retired as the long-time pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church – were instrumental in birthing Housing for New Hope and nurturing it in its early years and since.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church and another long-time supporter, talked of Allebaugh’s commitment, and his missionary zeal. “He’s a visionary,” Hawkins said.
“Homeless ministry is close to his heart…He has heightened our sensitivity to needs of the homeless, and for the poor of Durham.”

That is an admirable legacy, and we as a community could do worse than to help Allebaugh’s successor and all the others engaged in ending homelessness, as Whitted put it, “cross the finish line.”