The holidays are upon us and for many, the focus here is the joy of home and family. This is not the case for the 300-400 families in Mercer County who are in danger of losing their home altogether this month, who call into HomeFront’s Eviction Hotline.

HomeFront is the Lawrence-based nonprofit agency that provides emergency shelter with intensive case management and affordable housing for families. HomeFront tries to prevent these families from ever becoming homeless in the first place, with back rent or security deposits that can often be enough to maintain stability.

HomeFront’s homelessness prevention work may be a surprise to community members who associate the nonprofit with its temporary shelter, the Family Campus, for families already experiencing homelessness. But the first step for HomeFront is to determine whether a family can remain in their current apartment or move directly into a new one, because that costs less than shelter stays, helps maintain a family’s school and work schedules, and keeps emotional and physical trauma to a minimum.

“This is a massive, ongoing operation on a daily basis,” says HomeFront CEO Connie Mercer. “And the calls really ramp up this time of year, because parents in crisis situations are terrified to think of their children huddled on a freezing street. We have to be ready to do something fast and, even though the season is just beginning, the numbers this year are staggering. A client at a recent eviction proceeding heard the judge say that he had 100 more eviction cases to hear that afternoon.”

The helpline phones are ringing at HomeFront while you are reading this, Mercer says.

“Each time our case managers answer, they assess all the ways we can help.” More than 25,000 times last year, families came to HomeFront for — and were given — shelter, food and life-changing assistance. During the holiday season it’s just the help many families need.”

The HomeFront eviction hotline is (609) 989-9417, ext. 141.