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What I’ve Learned from 7 Months of Serving Homeless and House-Insecure Women in DC

AVODAHGRAs I finished my senior year at Wesleyan University, one of the things I was most afraid of for my post-grad life was losing the environment in which everyone is eager to share the learning process with their friends and peers. The desire to preserve that, and the importance of my Jewish communities and experiences to me, is what led me to Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.

Avodah is based on studying the issues and approaches of our own service work as a way to navigate the centuries-old question central to Jewish life that is: how do Jews meet our obligation to serve? To do this, my fellow 23 Avodah Corps Members in DC and I are placed at leading anti-poverty organizations across the District – where we gain hands-on work experience and learn about the root causes and effects of poverty in this country. We work with individuals facing challenges related to healthcare access, food insecurity, housing insecurity, our immigration and refugee systems, and much more, as we also consider how to best organize the Jewish community toward a more just and equitable future.

For the past seven months, I’ve been serving as a program associate at N Street Village. N Street Village empowers homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. to claim their highest quality of life by offering a broad spectrum of services, housing, and advocacy in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

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Before I started Avodah, I was worried that my position and responsibilities would be too far removed from the macro-level social justice that I had spent most of college thinking about and cultivating my skills toward; I was nervous that I would not only miss reading, writing, and critically thinking about social justice in these ways, but that I wouldn’t be qualified for the direct service work that our clients needed me to do. Within the first few months I definitely faced a steep learning curve, but have also since found that I continue to learn more than I could have ever imagined about the lived experiences at the heart of the issues that I care about. This has been due in part to all of the training and learning opportunities that my placement provides its staff – especially its Avodah Corps Members and social work interns.

One of the areas of learning that has profoundly impacted me this year is trauma-informed care. Trauma informed care is a holistic approach to providing services, based in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma. What fascinates me about this framework is that trauma-informed care is more about changing systems than providing brief interventions to navigate traumatic experiences: it’s more about how a person who has experienced homelessness feels in a space that is intended to provide care, rather than about agencies checking off boxes of predetermined treatment requirements.

Learning and exploring the principles of trauma-informed care has helped me imagine concrete ways in which the choices that I make at work can be empowering for clients, even when challenges within the systems can be endlessly disempowering for them. Having an understanding of this holistic approach to care, I’m able to better recognize symptoms of mental health instability as related to the traumatic experiences of homelessness and being deprived of basic human needs. Most importantly, this framework helps me as a staff person to focus on the sheer resilience at the core of human responses to stress and crisis, reduce the shame and stigma associated by homelessness and/or other crises, and ideally, help survivors feel respected, connected, and hopeful about their recovery.

Though I describe trauma-informed care as systemic, and at its core it is all about a widespread change to social work and the standards behind providing services, where it really manifests are the personal experiences I have with clients and my coworkers. In the fall, our N Street Village CEO wrote a letter to the organization’s staff in the wake of multiple acts of white supremacist violence – from the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to the murders of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones in Louisville, Kentucky. She wrote that in our work at N Street Village, “every day we have multiple invitations to challenge our implicit biases and to seek interpersonal justice. We are invited to acknowledge our well-worn habits of mind which automatically see an ‘other’ — and instead to exercise new habits of heart which see our commonality and which instinctively reach for connection.”

Having experienced this work for the past seven months, and getting to see its impact, I’m so grateful to my workplace and to Avodah as a whole for bringing the interpersonal connections to the foreground in my understanding of justice. I can only hope that through the rest of the year and beyond, my fellow Corps members and I never stop finding ways to fold that interpersonal justice into greater action and movements for progress.

 

About the Author:

Sammi Aibinder is an Avodah Jewish Service Corps Member. She currently works as a program associate at N Street Village, which empowers homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. Ms. Aibinder is a graduate of Wesleyan University.

 

Celebrating 30 Years: More than Housing, Hope for the Future

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Thirty years ago, as the Gaithersburg area began to grow, so did the homeless population. Faith leaders quickly realized homelessness was a problem, and they came together to provide food and other necessities. However, they knew that providing a hot meal was not enough for families, especially those with young children. In the winter of 1987, a few churches came together to discuss the problem and try to come up with a solution, and thus The Dwelling Place was born. It was agreed the organization would provide transitional housing and case management to single moms with children. For the first year, the organization served four families. There were no paid staff, only volunteers. In late 1989, the first Executive Director and Case Manager were hired. For the next two decades, the organization would experience tremendous growth, serving up to 35 families in the Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village area. We understood the importance of intensive case management in order to help families identify the barriers that led to homelessness and make sure that they would not allow those same triggers to get in the way of their stability. We believe that providing housing is not the answer to a family’s problem, there has to be a real connection and relationship, the one they build with their case manager.

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Thirty years later, we continue to serve homeless families in Montgomery County. Our programs have changed a little bit, but we still hold true to our core values: providing our families with intensive, wrap-around case management. Through our program, we not only provide them affordable housing, but we prepare them for life after they exit The Dwelling Place. We emphasize financial literacy, and strongly encourage our families to be a part of our savings program. When they leave, we match a certain amount. We provide career counseling services, and set a goal to increase income every six months. We provide life skills classes, in which families decide what topic they want to discuss which will contribute in their journey to self-sufficiency. We work with the children in the home to make sure they’re thriving and have a greater chance of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. We also work with the young adults, many who are ready to leave their homes and go out on their own. We had a difficult year last year when we lost a major HUD contract, but like our families we remain resilient and committed to working hard to serve those that need us most. We are proud of the work we have done over the last thirty years. We have worked with close to 300 families, all of which transitioned out to permanent, stable housing. To celebrate this amazing milestone, we will be celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a gala at the end of the year. We are excited to reconnect with old supporters, past program participants, and former board members. More than anything, we are looking forward to thanking the community for their support, which has allowed us to do the work we do. It takes a village, and we are proud of the village we have built for our families. We hope you join us in celebrating our work!

Walking in Another’s (Broken) Shoes with Georgetown Ministry Center

by Carolyn Landes, Communications Manager, Georgetown Ministry Center
IMG_9060On a chilly afternoon this past December, I accompanied GMC Executive Director, Gunther Stern, and GMC Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. John Tarim on street outreach (a program where GMC staff check on and visit with individuals experiencing homelessness outside of the Center, directly on the streets). We’d been walking for about an hour and as we made our way down a street in West End, Gunther called out a greeting to an approaching figure — a large man, well over 6 feet tall and of a stocky build, walking with a cane. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Ed.

It was clear from Ed’s warm reception of Gunther that he was a familiar acquaintance. Despite his physically imposing frame, Ed was mild-mannered, polite and soft-spoken. Gunther and Dr. Tarim asked the usual outreach questions, inquiring about Ed’s health and well being and asking if he needed any of the supplies we were carrying with us — items like granola bars, hand warmers, hand sanitizer and socks.
IMG_9055I happened to glance down toward Ed’s feet at the same moment Gunther asked, “How are your shoes holding up?” It was a gentle but pointed inquiry. The answer was obvious to all of us without Ed saying anything. His black, leather shoes were well beyond the point of “holding up” — they were literally falling apart. Only his left shoe had a shoelace. Threads were coming out of the seams on both soles and there were large gaping cracks in the leather on both shoes. The hole on the top of his left shoe was so large that I wondered how it was staying on his foot, let alone providing any protection from the cold.

Ed demurred the question at first but Gunther calmly persisted.”We’ll get you some shoes. What size are you?”

“Thirteen,” Ed allowed.

“Thirteen? Are you sure?”

Ed nodded. And then softly added, “Only if there’s extra.”

At that moment, I had to turn away. A large lump had formed suddenly in my throat and hot tears were stinging the corners of my eyes. Although I’d been working at GMC for 9 months by this time and had witnessed guests experiencing homelessness in dire situations before, something about the image of Ed’s tattered shoes struck me. I felt a mix of compassion for this gentle soul - how long had he been wearing these shoes that were disintegrating on his feet? – and anger that I wasn’t sure where to direct. How were we – as a society, as fellow human beings — allowing this? The holes in Ed’s shoes didn’t form overnight. How many others had passed him, noticed his broken shoes, and just kept walking, ignoring his obvious need?

Our interaction with Ed was just one of many we had that afternoon. Walking for just a few hours, we were met with individual after individual — both men and women, of varying ages, backgrounds and dispositions — each with their own story. They all recognized Gunther and knew immediately why he and Dr. Tarim were there — to offer help, even if only on that day in the form of a plastic baggie filled with toiletries, snacks and socks.

The image of Ed and his broken shoes stayed with me and a couple of weeks after our encounter I inquired with Gunther about him. “Whatever happened with the guy we saw on outreach that needed the shoes?”

“Oh! He got them.”

I blinked. “He got them?”

Gunther nodded. “Yeah, I went home that night and told Alexis to pick some up in his size. She was already out shopping for the kids.”

I smiled incredulously. “And did you already get them to him?”

Gunther nodded. “I went by Miriam’s the next day.”

I don’t know how Gunther knew Ed would be at Miriam’s Kitchen, a neighboring non-profit that aids those experiencing homelessness, the next day. It was one of the many small enigmas I was perplexed by working with someone who had been doing their job for nearly 30 years — I guess, like in most jobs, some things are learned with experience.

I do know that my experience on outreach that day cemented in my mind as an absolute surety the dire need our community has for organizations like GMC. It is our responsibility to recognize the needs of our neighbors and to help those who cannot help themselves.

Georgetown Ministry Center is a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities to one of the very neediest populations: chronically homeless individuals who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities, as well as physical injuries. Many are resistant to help, so GMC creates a welcoming environment that fosters trust. Last year it reached nearly 1,000 homeless individuals, including 60-70 “regulars.” An on-staff psychiatrist served 100, while a general practitioner provided care to 350. Moving from the streets to housing is profoundly challenging for this population, but for those who achieve it each year, GMC supports them at each step.

Around Town 10/20 -11/3

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Saturday, October 21, 2017
MOMENTUM Gala
Dance Place

Celebrate Dance Place’s next stage at our annual Gala and see Dance Place like you’ve never seen it before!

Explore Dance Place’s arts campus with immersive art installations that merge performance, theater design and technology. Choose your own adventure as you journey through sensory exhibitions that envelop guests in an arts fun-house experience. Discover dancers hidden throughout the spaces, navigate a coliseum of tires, decipher optical illusions and more.

Plus, special guest performance by new Executive Artistic Director Christopher K. Morgan in our theater.

Enjoy tasty libations, bid on our silent auction and end the night with our signature DP dance party!

When: Saturday, October 21, 2017 (7:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $150
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Saturday, October 28, 2017
LMnO3
Dance Place

New York City-based trio LMnO3 shifts identities in a kaleidoscopic pageant of status and femininity. B.A.N.G.S.: Made in America uses hard rap, body percussion and a game show to repurpose how we unapologetically wear our own “Beauty, Age, Number, Goodness and Size.” Donning velvet evening wear, rip-stop jumpsuits, snack-filled purses and sensible bathing suits, the dancers explore what they are – and aren’t – qualified to do. Serious play and creative instincts rule as the trio obsesses over the ideas behind B.A.N.G.S., a mnemonic acronym frequently used by French-language learners turned into a handy feminist to-dismantle list.

When: Saturday, October 28, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Sunday, October 29, 2017
Complete the Circle FOODRaiser This event is accepting volunteers
Britepaths (formerly Our Daily Bread)

It may seem hard to believe, but 60,000 people in Fairfax County don’t know where their next meal will come from. 28,000 of them are children. Britepaths and Lorton Community Action Center are joining to host their 7th Complete the Circle FOODRaiser to raise awareness about hunger and need in the Fairfax County area and to raise food and funds to feed the hungry in our midst.

Complete the Circle is a joyful service project for community members of all ages. Bring food and/or grocery store gift card donations and participate in a fun public art project called “Art for the Sky.”

The afternoon includes live music with musicians from Cancer Can Rock, children’s activities and refreshments. $10 per participant includes the event T-shirt that will color our Art for the Sky “living picture.” Proceeds and donations from the event will benefit Britepaths and Lorton Community Action Center’s families. Advance registration recommended. On-site registration available.

When: Sunday, October 29, 2017 (1:00 PM – 2:30 PM)
Where: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, VA 22030 map
Fee: $10
Volunteer Info: Many volunteers will be needed on Oct. 28 and 29 to help set up and run the event, and to clean up and return donations to Britepaths and LCAC after the event. Volunteer registration will be available soon at: http://www.CompletetheCircleFx.org
Contact: Jennifer Rose, (703) 273-8829
For more information: click here

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Joy of Motion’s Mixed Movement
Dance Place

Joy of Motion Dance Center brings you Mixed Movement: Entertainment in Motion, a series that mixes dance together with live music, poetry and theater. Join us for a humorous and eclectic night out that’s both thought-provoking and entertaining.

When: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, District of Columbia 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 691-1601
For more information: click here

A Transformative & Empowering Community with Calvary Women’s Services

By Daniela Jungova, Development Associate, Calvary Women’s Services

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Calvary Women’s Services offers housing, health, employment and education programs that empower homeless women in Washington, DC to change their lives.

As the state of homelessness in DC continues to be critical, Calvary reaches women who are most likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness, women who have experienced domestic violence, are struggling with substance addiction and are living with mental illness.

Calvary’s programs address the root causes of homelessness, so women can take control of their lives and plan for their future. In addition to meeting women’s basic needs by providing safe housing, meals and other amenities, all women in our programs have access to services that empower them to regain their health, build new life skills, and achieve financial independence.

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Our comprehensive services for women include personalized case management, life skills, education and arts classes (LEAP), health services, addiction recovery meetings, and job placement services (Step Up DC). Women who obtain jobs through Step Up DC have an average hourly wage of $13, and 90% of those who secure employment with Step Up DC’s support transition into stable housing.

“Calvary is a great place to live if you’re serious about making a change. I’m working on changing my life from the inside out. Nothing will stop me from doing what I need to do to turn my life around,” says Calvary resident Adrienne.

Now that summer is in full swing, women love to spend time on Calvary’s back patio. Just a couple of weeks ago, the patio got a major makeover thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Green Building Council – National Capital Area.

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The patio has undergone improvement projects that include the planting of new vegetable plants (such as peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes), herbs and three beautiful peach trees, as well as the installment of a “green wall” with climbing vines.

The patio quickly became a welcome respite from women’s busy days. Women now enjoy their education classes outside at the tables, and take ownership over maintaining and watering the garden. Every day, they check on the growing vegetables and find joy in tasting the results of their work.

CFP4But the new garden is not the only place where women’s hard work is paying off. Calvary’s safe, respectful community as a whole is a truly amazing place of transformation – a place where it is possible for women to heal from histories of trauma, build supportive relationships, and gain the skills and confidence to live independently.

We believe that every woman has the strengths and gifts that allow her to make these positive changes. Thanks to Calvary’s small, intimate environment, we are able to meet each woman as an individual and give her the support she deserves as she works to overcome her challenges. Our model works – every five days, a woman moves from Calvary into her own home.

CFP1I invite you to learn more about Calvary at www.calvaryservices.org. We are currently looking for volunteers who can lead various life skills, education and arts classes, assist women with job applications, prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, and staff the front desk. We have opportunities for groups and individuals alike – check out all of our volunteer opportunities here. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with all of Calvary’s happenings.

We hope you will join our transformative, empowering community!

Determination and Resiliency with Housing Up

by Julian Peters, Resource Development Associate, Housing Up

Housing Up is the premier non-profit homeless services and affordable housing provider in the District of Columbia. Established in 1990 as Transitional Housing Corporation with one 14-unit building under our belt, we have since expanded to five properties located around the city where we provide our support services to low-income, homeless and at-risk families. We currently serve more than 600 families throughout the District.

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2017′s point-in-time count revealed there are currently 7,473 people experiencing homelessness in the District of Columbia, 3,890 of whom are parts of families and 2,268 of whom are children. There are currently 1,166 families experiencing homelessness in DC, and the lack of affordable housing in the city has been a huge driving force behind the homelessness crisis. The U.S. worker must earn an average of $21.21 to afford a two-bedroom apartment; in DC, that average is $33.58 per hour, the second highest in the nation. There is a clear need for the affordable housing that we provide, as well as the comprehensive support services made available to our clients and their children. The combination of stable, affordable housing and support services enables families to become economically self-sufficient and break the cycle of poverty.

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Year after year our residents serve as living examples of determination and resiliency; we’ve seen people in our programs bounce back from the worst situations and turn their lives around. They are the definition of the human potential latent both in our client population and in the underserved in general; a potential so powerful yet so fragile, that it can go to waste if not properly supported and encouraged. Without organizations like Housing Up, our families can so easily slip through the cracks and become statistics, and we are motivated to support as much of their potential as we possibly can.

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Housing Up’s mission is to end family homelessness by 2020, and we work toward that goal daily through the services and housing we provide to our families and through advocacy work to make affordable housing and solving homelessness a priority for the city government. As part of the Coalition of Non-Profits for Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), we advocate for homelessness and housing solutions to be included in DC’s budget, and our work in that regard is paying off: the District government’s budget this year includes very generous provisions for housing and homelessness. There is progress being made, but there is also much more work to be done.

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We are currently looking forward to the renovation of our Partner Arms 2 building, one of our oldest properties. We are in the process of converting Partner Arms 2 from transitional housing to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), which serves chronically homeless families with mental or physical health disabilities. Our PSH program is based on the Housing First model, which focuses on quickly moving families experiencing homelessness into permanent housing with leases in their own names, and then providing support services. The conversion of Partner Arms 2 aligns with the federal government’s priority for PSH programs based on Housing First. We’re excited to kick off development of senior housing and our future office headquarters at The Parks at Walter Reed, former home of the Walter Reed Medical Center. We can also look forward to the Mayor’s plan to build eight shelters for families experiencing homelessness in DC, which will be an important step in our city’s collective efforts of ending family homelessness in the District.

housingup1We love volunteers! We have volunteers come in to tutor both children and adult residents. We also have community gardens at most of our properties, so anyone with a green thumb may participate in the gardening at any one of our sites. We do yoga, backpack drives and food drives as well, and will allow for anyone with a particular set of skills or interests to come in and hold a class for our residents. There are opportunities for groups and individuals, for one time events and regular volunteering. Please contact Emily Koppel at ekoppel@housingup.org if you’re interested in volunteering with us.

We’re also actively seeking new members for our Board of Directors. For more details on our board, please contact Christina Peay, Senior Manager of Communications & Development at cpeay@housingup.org.

Respecting the Dignity of Others with Georgetown Ministry Center

By Gunther Stern, Executive Director Georgetown Ministry CenterDSC_9082

After 30 years, I will be passing the reins early next year to someone with new ideas and energy, but with a commitment to our current mission and goals.

Georgetown Ministry Center started in 1987 with just one social worker, and a mandate to provide service and shelter.

I was working in a soup kitchen in Silver Spring when I saw the position originally announced. In a previous life I had spent time with homeless people in Georgetown. I became fascinated by the mental illnesses and the lifestyle. I couldn’t resist applying. As it turned out, I ended up helping some of the people I had gotten to know years before in Georgetown.

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I have become acutely aware that while housing is important to the solution of homelessness, we need to fix our broken mental health system, too. This nation’s commitment to people with mental illness is absent, both because of misunderstanding the problem and a lack of will. We are allowing people with no insight, who are completely incapacitated by mental illness, to choose to live on the street. We need to change that and we are expanding our advocacy in this vein.

Currently, we are working with local leaders to create a dialogue about the need for more aggressive interventions for people who are homeless because of severe mental illness. There needs to be a better policy than allowing people with little or no insight and judgement to choose to live on the street in squalor.

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We have grown over the years into a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities. We have been working on plan with a foundation to use our space more effectively. We now have plans which will add some space but also better utilize the space we have. We are hoping to begin a capital campaign soon.

As the only homeless service provider in the immediate neighborhood, we serves one of the very neediest populations. Many are resistant to services and treatment, so we create a welcoming environment that fosters friendly relationships and, ultimately, trust.

Gunther Outreach Bench

I am inspired by Bill and Melinda Gates. After building a fortune at a very young age, they turned their lives and genius to helping others, full-time. That inspires me to constantly review our mission. I am always assessing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). I think about the risks of any action, plan, or for that matter, inaction and lack of plan.

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Last year, we reached 1,000 homeless individuals, including 60-70 “regulars,” providing 5,391 showers and 9,879 sandwiches. An on-staff psychiatrist served 100, while a general practitioner provided care to 350. Moving from the streets to housing is profoundly challenging for this population, but a few achieve it each year and we support them at every step.

I consider Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy for education for girls, a personal hero. Even after the devastating injury, she returned to speaking out. She would not be silenced. It reminds me to respect the dignity of our constituents, and never talk down to them.

We seek lasting solutions for homelessness, one person at a time. For more information about us, or to volunteer, email us at info@gmcgt.org or call us 202-388-8301.

Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives with HomeAid Northern Virginia

By: Kristyn Burr, Executive Director, HomeAid Northern Virginia

HANV - Youth for Tomorrow Ribbon cutting

This month, HomeAid Northern Virginia completed our 116th project to improve and expand housing provided by homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities – helping vulnerable individuals and families in our local area rebuild their lives with a secure, stable place to call home. Our most recent project was collaboration with the Brain Foundation of Fairfax County (another Catalogue nonprofit). With the assistance of HomeAid Northern Virginia, two Brain Foundation group homes that provide affordable, stable housing for individuals suffering from brain disease/mental illness – a population that is particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless – now have new bathrooms, more storage, enhanced common space and more.

HomeAid Northern Virginia facilitates and enables construction and renovation work on shelters, provides significant cost savings and allows organizations serving the homeless to invest their budgets in people-focused programs and services rather than building expenses. We facilitate renovations to shelters and supportive housing properties by bringing together the expertise of the local homebuilder community with the needs of local nonprofits who work to house the homeless.

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By convening and mobilizing the donated expertise, labor, and resources of homebuilders and construction trade partners (suppliers, subcontractors, etc.) who work with HomeAid Northern Virginia, we have completed 116 construction and renovation projects. Together these homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities have served more than 112,000 individuals in our community. Every single project we undertake gives more and more individuals and families safe housing where they can plan their futures and rebuild their lives.

Homelessness in Northern Virginia
Nearly 2,000,000 people find themselves homeless in America each year. A lost job or unexpected illness or injury can easily disrupt a family just getting by. A veteran’s posttraumatic stress, or the courageous decision to flee domestic violence displaces others. Due to the high cost of living in Northern Virginia, even the slightest change can affect a person’s living situation.

Building What Matters Most: A Secure, Stable Home

Stable secure housing has been shown to foster stable employment for adults and greater success in school for children. Access to stable, accessible housing enables families who were separated due to homelessness or housing insecurity to be reunited. At HomeAid, we do more than build housing for the homeless – we change lives.

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From the construction of entirely new shelter buildings to renovating sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms, HomeAid Northern Virginia’s 116 projects have provided $14.7 million of construction to more than 40 nonprofit housing organizations that serve homeless families and children, victims of domestic abuse, runaway teens and other at risk individuals. Importantly, our projects have saved our nonprofit service-provider partners $8.4 million in retail construction costs, while at the same time enabling them to support improvements to provide a safe place for children to do their homework, for parents to get ready for work, and for families to get back on their feet. Instead of dollars spent on construction, our partners can pour more funding into the programs and services – education, vocational training, day care, counseling, etc. – that help individuals and families rebuild their lives.
HANV kitchen transformation
Several of our projects and partners include:

  • Shelter House’s Artemis House, Fairfax County’s only 24-hour domestic violence shelter. With HomeAid’s renovation, the shelter now provides safe housing for up to 8 individuals at a time facing life-threatening crisis.
  • Youth for Tomorrow (YFT), a residential campus for at-risk youth in Bristow, Va. HomeAid completed construction of two new homes on the campus, each allowing YFT to provide shelter and support services to 36 girls who are pregnant, young mothers, homeless, runaways, or survivors of sex trafficking.
  • Loudoun Transitional Housing Program. The program’s eight apartment units that provide transitional housing for homeless families and single women were completely renovated to create a well-appointed and fully-furnished home to help residents rebuild their lives and get back on the road to self-sufficiency.
  • Northern Virginia Family Service. HomeAid expanded and updated its shelter and food distribution center, constructed space for a Head Start day care facility, and renovated housing provided for disabled veterans and homeless families.

Beyond the Brick and Mortar: Enabling a Virtuous Cycle
Beyond the individual benefits to those living in the new/renovated facilities, there is a virtuous cycle of good associated with each HANV project:

  • Upgrades to housing positively impact not only current residents, but future residents for years to come.
  • Enhanced real-estate improves the balance sheet for nonprofits, and improves neighborhoods.

In this way, our projects are not “done” when they are completed; their impact is felt across individuals and communities long-term. By strategically building what is needed most in Northern Virginia, HomeAid is able to support other nonprofits as we work together toward ending homelessness, one person and one family at a time.

brain foundation renovation image 1HomeAid Isn’t Just For Homebuilders: “Helping Hands”
While we are always recruiting new homebuilders to serve as project “builder captains” and construction trade partners to collaborate with on our projects, we have plenty of other volunteer opportunities as well. The homes and shelter facilities we build and renovate provide comfortable shelter, but that’s typically not all that incoming residents need. Many arrive with little more than the shirts on their back. We started our Helping Hands program to make sure that individuals and families who move into HomeAid-renovated housing have what they need for a fresh start:

  • Our Fill the Fridge program collects gift cards so that homeless families moving into a new home can buy milk, fruit, and other perishables for a healthy start in their new home.
  • Our Welcome Home Baskets include basic but essential items that formerly-homeless families need for their new home, including towels, sheets, pots, dishes etc.
  • Our annual backpack drive ensures that children living in homeless shelters and supportive housing properties have access to a new backpack before the start of each school year; and our annual “Night at the Ballpark” treats hundreds of families living in local shelters to a Potomac Nationals baseball game – quality family time at a sporting event that may otherwise be out of financial reach.

Scout groups, neighborhood groups, school groups, church groups and other community organizations have organized collection drives for our Helping Hands program. These drives help make a house a home and you can make a difference by organizing one for an upcoming project. Learn more at http://www.homeaidnova.org/get-involved/volunteer/.

Volunteers and Tutors Make a Difference at Bridges to Independence

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Bridges to Independence has been working with and for people experiencing homelessness since 1985, when we were founded as the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. In 2016, Bridges served a total of 460 individuals: 248 through our housing programs (emergency shelter and rapid re-housing) and 212 in other programs and services (financial literacy, employment services, etc.).

Our mission is to lead individuals and families out of homelessness and into stable, independent futures. We offer aid and support for all family members, helping them attain financial security and move forward into self-sufficiency. As homelessness is often episodic, we work not only with people who are currently experiencing homelessness, but also with former participants to ensure they are able to remain securely housed and do not fall into homelessness again.

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Former client Mohammed, his wife, and their 5 daughters invited us to their home for a visit. It was wonderful to see the family thriving!

Our vision is to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Two-thirds of the people we serve are under the age of 18. We provide youth with opportunities to increase self-esteem, gain leadership skills, and improve their overall health/well-being. We strive to give older students the confidence, skills, and tools needed to pursue and complete post-secondary education or vocational training, providing them with a pathway to economic security.

After many years of helping people move into their own homes, we’ll soon get to experience a homecoming of our own! In September, we will move into a brand-new 4,700 square foot training center, directly adjacent to our Sullivan House emergency shelter. The new space will be a hive of activity and will include a children’s room for youth activities, classrooms for job training, a personal counseling suite, and offices for our staff to continue their crucial work to support families in need. We’ll be able to serve more people, carry out programming more effectively, and explore new and innovative solutions for reducing homelessness.

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Gather a team for our Kickball Tournament or volunteer at the event!

Our 12th annual SAFE AT HOME Kickball Tournament will be Saturday, August 5, 2017. Teams, sponsors and volunteers can sign up now at https://bridges2.org/kickball/. We also need volunteers to serve as mentors or tutors, represent Bridges at events, help with office work, and more. For details, see www.bridges2.org or contact Lawson Craighill at lcraighill@bridges2.org.

 

Nourishing Body and Soul at Thrive DC

By Greg Rockwell, Community Relations Manager, Thrive DC

Thrive DC is a “one-stop shop” for homeless services in Columbia Heights. We provide a range of services to help clients take their next step out of homelessness AND avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
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Since 2002, the average rent has gone up $3,000. At the same time, DC has lost HALF of its affordable housing to gentrification and luxury condos.

For the 8,000 – 10,000 already homeless individuals, and the many more living on the edge of poverty, that means DC has literally no room for them. We are experiencing a crisis where people are living on the street without resources and people in housing are just trying to hang on.

Thrive DC acts as an anchor and support system to these people to help them take their next step out of homelessness.

Coat Drive

“There is a spirit of community that infuses the organization. The direct services provided are necessary for the body, but the community serves the soul. Who’s to say which is the more valuable? Both are necessary and both can be found in great measure at Thrive DC.” — Volunteer

In 2019 we will celebrate 40 years of service to DC’s homeless population. In honor of that milestone we are also looking for a new space that we can grow in and provide even better service to our clients.

Emergency Groceries

Our clients are our inspiration, and our relationships with them drive everything we do. We get so excited to see them succeed!

When clients achieve the goals they set for themselves; to get sober, to get a job, to get housing, to re-establish their lives after years of incarceration – that’s what success looks like for us.

A great day includes a client achieving their goals, a big donation of socks or underwear, and a fresh baked plate of our Development Director’s world famous macaroons.

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Thrive DC is located in Columbia Heights, on the bottom level of St. Stephen’s Church at 16th St & Newton St NW. We love volunteers, and need around 20 volunteers a day to help with our breakfast & dinner programs, employment programs, and front desk work.

One of the biggest things people can do is to take our business cards and keep them in their wallet, purse, or pocket. We encourage people to interact with panhandlers as their conscience dictates, but also to always let clients know the next place to get more help.

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