(May 23, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Trudy Harsh, founder of The Brain Foundation and Laura’s Houses. She formed this non-profit in 2003 to provide supported housing for those in our area living with brain diseases such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders. Laura’s House are named for Trudy’s daughter Laura who had a brain tumor removed when she was 8 years old and struggled with mental health issues up to the time of her death in 2006.
Trudy is a Realtor in Northern Virginia with over 40 years of experience. She is quick to acknowledge that she is not involved in direct services for mental illness, but she does know real estate. Her mission is to provide safe and affordable housing for those who are capable of living more independently in a small group setting. She keeps this population in Fairfax County from becoming homeless by providing housing based on their ability to pay.
The first house she purchased was in Fairfax City and it was made possible by an infusion of $50,000 from another Realtor who believed in her mission. There are now 9 Laura’s Houses. She purchases 4 bedroom homes so there are four residents in each home. They are in integrated within the larger community in a way allows them to be part of a neighborhood. Trudy expects that they will be self sufficient in 10 to 15 years.
The Brain Foundation has partnered with Pathways and the Community Services Board (where Trudy served for two terms) to find potential residents who are likely to thrive in this environment. Not every placement works out and Trudy monitors the residents in each home and makes adjustments as necessary.
The long term consideration for this founder is about succession planning, maintaining and adding supporters, and recruiting new board members to keep the work of The Brain Foundation viable over the next decades beyond her stewardship. This organization has been successful in showing that supported housing can make the difference in the lives of those living with brain disease. They need an infusion of new interest, younger supporters, and of course . . . money.
On June 3, 2017, The Brain Foundation will host it’s annual fundraiser and this year’s keynote speaker is Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds. It will be held at Maggiano’s at Tyson’s Galleria and the public is invited. If you can’t attend, consider making a donation to this very worthy organization.