Fighting homelessness with a fashion show


Next month’s fashion showcase at Rockville Links Club will highlight the beauty — internal and external — that Bethany House brings out in local women who have faced challenges.

The 21st annual Bethany House Fashion Show will take place on March 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. Bloomingdales will donate all the clothes that will be worn in the show by eight local women.

“This event is an evening to celebrate all the wonderful people in the community who helped Bethany House throughout the years,” Lisa King, co-chair of the organization’s Development and Communications Committee, said.

Bethany House, in Baldwin, provides a safe place for healing and personal growth for women, and women with children, who are experiencing homelessness. The women taking part in the show have either helped the event grow or helped spread the word about Bethany House.

The evening will start with hors d’oeuvres and remarks from new Executive Director Katie Swanson. Heidi Seeling, who was a resident at the house will speak. Afterward, the models will sport their fashion attire during dinner.

“The models are women who have either helped us with the fashion show over the years or advocated for the Bethany House,” King explained.

Last year, the show raised around $20,000. King said that it sells out every year, and attracts 180 to 200 people. “Our fundraisers that we do go directly to helping the women and children at Bethany House,” she said.

King noted that the fundraisers have helped support the organization’s programs. Its goal is to help women transition out of homelessness permanently — to break the cycle of homelessness.

“The women come to Bethany House to learn skills that maybe they were missing,” King said. “We help them, for instance, with computer knowledge. We also have financial advisers come and help the women learn how to balance their finances.”

One program helps women go back to school. Another service the organization has implemented is called Safe Ground for Families.

“We now have a transitional house, on Demott Avenue in Baldwin,” King said, “where we put women who we see are growing at Bethany House and see that they’re ready to transition out of homelessness, but they’re not quite able to live on their own.”

With the cost of living so high on Long Island, King said that Safe Ground for Families will help lift the financial burden for women transitioning out of Bethany House. At the Demott Avenue home, they can regain their footing and grow even more. They are provided with a room, but are responsible for their groceries and other needs.

“They pay only what they can afford,” King said. “And not more than a certain amount of money.”

King said she has seen 20 to 30 women transition out of Bethany House and into apartments in the 17 years she has worked there. She noted that before it offered a range of programs, there simply wasn’t enough funding to help women break free of homelessness.

“All of these programs have happened recently and within the last three years,” King said. “So all these programs are still sort of in their infancy.”

And they are working, she said, as evidenced by women who have come back after transitioning out of the facility to tell King and the staff how they’re doing now. King sees them in their own apartments, thriving, and that’s how she knows that Bethany House has made a huge difference in their lives.

With about 100 fashion show tickets sold so far, King said she hoped more people would buy tickets to support the house and the programs it offers. To purchase tickets, go to