Family of Woodstock began in 1969 as the Woodstock music festival was occurring in Upper State New York (Burger). The organization’s principle founder, Gail Varsi, realized that all of the people coming into the area needed help. A majority of the people was young and was in need of shelter, food, and clothing. Varsi used her home phone line as Family of Woodstock’s crisis line and turned her home into a shelter (Burger). Some of the people needed more than just shelter, food or clothing. There was also a need for transportation, counseling and rehabilitation. It was not uncommon for those escaping abusive situations at home to seek out the services of Family of Woodstock (Burger). Substance abuse and abandonment were other common reasons why the young individuals needed assistance and a place to stay (Burger).
The Family of Woodstock’s mission is to “provide confidential and fully accessible crisis intervention, information, prevention, and support services” (GuideStar, 2015). The organization specializes in adolescent, childcare, domestic violence and homelessness services (GuideStar, 2015). Family of Woodstock essentially provides a way to obtain basic life necessities for those who have been cut off from their means of financial and social support. These individuals are without the necessities that much of society takes for granted, including a safe place to live, nutritious food, transportation, and access to adequate finances.
The reason why Family of Woodstock specialized in providing these services is that the organization’s founder realized there was a large group of transient individuals who were not necessarily transient by choice. Family of Woodstock’s specialization came as a result of the primary needs of those who ended up calling Vasi’s crisis line. Their immediate needs were shelter, food, clothing, and someone who would listen and understand their situation. Family of Woodstock continued to specialize in the area of adolescent services and homelessness because those seeking out the organization’s services did not have the skills they needed to lead independent lives (Burger). The individuals needed help acquiring life skills – the ability to conduct a job search, obtain gainful employment, cook, manage a bank account, come up with a transportation plan, and gain the trade or academic skills to enter the labor market (Burger).
Family of Woodstock also realized that individuals leave their homes because they are living in dangerous environments. Victims of domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse leave their abusive environments as a last resort. Many times if they do not leave, they will not survive. Unfortunately, leaving an abuser or an abusive situation puts these individuals at further risk, especially if the abuser was their primary means of financial support.
In addition, some individuals are forced out of their homes. This happens when parents are unable to financially provide for all of their children or label a certain child as the “black sheep of the family.” Even though these children are not able to provide for themselves, the parents abandon their responsibilities towards them. Family of Woodstock recognized that not all child runaways were indeed runaways in the true sense of the term (Burger).
Family of Woodstock’s crisis intervention line is available twenty-four hours a day and the organization operates several walk-in locations where individuals can obtain emergency shelter and food (GuideStar, 2015). The organization decided to focus on helping the individuals that society has marginalized – those who suddenly find themselves excluded from the life necessities all humans need in order to survive in a modern world. Although there are those who are able to survive without access to modern shelter facilities, food and clothing, the Family of Woodstock recognizes that the majority of individuals have not developed the skills necessary for such a state of existence. The organization provides case management, counseling and support services because its staff is aware that sudden isolation from basic life necessities instills additional emotional and psychological trauma. Subsequently, emergency services are not enough. These individuals need assistance in weaving their way back into society as independent providers for themselves.
Changing Values, Attitudes and Beliefs
Family of Woodstock was founded on the belief of recognizing needs in the community and addressing them (Burger). This belief continues to permeate the organization today. Over the years, Family of Woodstock has expanded its services based on the changing attitude that temporary, crisis services are not enough. The organization’s MidWay Program is a testament to this change. The MidWay Program provides ongoing services to individuals who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues (Burger). The Family of Woodstock recognizes that these individuals may never be able to care for themselves independently, and consequently its staff provides adult case management services (Burger).
Specialization in General Human Services
As society has become more complex and technologically advanced, the field of human services has had to evolve from a generalist to a specialized approach (Burger). Change has become so rapid in modern society that skill sets become unusable and vanish quicker than before. The stress and anxiety produced by a rapidly advancing society have created various nuances. The development and identification of additional physical and mental diseases have also created a need for specialization (Burger). Public financial resources are not always in ample supply and one of the ways human services organizations can compete for those resources is through specialization (Burger). In the business world, this is known as competitive advantage. Government regulations for the field have also increased the need for specialized licensure and formal degrees (Burger).
Burger, William R. (nd). Real life human services work. Human Services in Contemporary
America. Cengage Learning.
GuideStar (2015). Family of Woodstock, Inc. GuideStar Exchange Report. Retrieved from