Success Story Archive
Banding Together to Help the Less Fortunate
Community homeless providers and agencies banded together to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the area late Sunday, Oct. 28 into Monday, Oct. 29. The storm brought significant rainfall, powerful wind gusts and widespread power outages that lasted overnight and into the next day.
Local radio stations broadcasted live from Shelter House’s Patrick Henry Family Shelter (PHFS) while volunteers worked full-throttle to prepare the shelter for the projected storm. Volunteer Fairfax supporters removed items from the playground that could potentially be a hazard while another volunteer laid sandbags on the path by the shelter’s entrance to prevent the building from flooding. The night before, PHFS staff met with all shelter residents for an emergency hurricane prep meeting that included distributing gift cards for each family to buy bottled water and nonperishables.
When the storm hit, PHFS lost power Monday night. Staff gave families flashlights, and the front desk was prepared with battery-operated cell phone chargers, solar-powered lanterns and glow sticks, among other items. The next morning, Fairfax County Community Interfaith Liaison Sandy Chisholm of Faith Communities in Action helped connect Shelter House staff with Lee District RECenter coordinators, as the center had been opened by the county as an emergency shelter. As Shelter House staff considered relocating families to this alternate place of shelter, staff from the Office of Emergency Management worked to deploy Dominion Power to the shelter and restored power less than 30 minutes after the call! Volunteers of America-Chesapeake/Baileys Crossroads Community Shelter provided hot lunches and dinners to shelter families on Tuesday, Oct. 30. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, a catering company donated additional meals so that the shelter had time to restock its food supplies.
Reston Interfaith’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter was able to house unsheltered adults in the area from the severe weather. Through the “no turn-away” policy, 29 additional people received emergency shelter. Clients stayed dry and enjoyed hot meals and watched movies.
As the storm began to approach on Sunday afternoon, FACETS began formulating a plan with three local faith communities to provide a safe haven for homeless individuals. Fairfax Circle Baptist Church, Fairfax United Methodist Church and St. Stephens United Methodist Church opened their doors and assisted with transporting individuals to and from the temporary emergency shelters. Because of the support from the larger community and each partnering faith community, over 100 individuals living on the streets were sheltered from the severe weather. Additionally, many volunteers dropped off donations of umbrellas, sweaters, pants, hats and scarves to ensure those in need remained warm and dry.
“It was a cold, windy and rainy night but we were all warmed by those that we helped,” said a member of the St. Georges United Methodist Church. “From the gentleman who cried in delight when he saw the cheese and crackers, to the woman who said her children would be filled with the sandwiches and warmed by the soup that was provided, and mostly to the woman who did literally cry and shouted for joy because we had oatmeal and fresh water as she has a special needs child that mostly is fed through a tube. Items like oatmeal and applesauce were something the child can take orally. It was a heartwarming night for sure!” Food was delivered by the congregation of St. Georges United Methodist Church Sunday night during the storm to homeless individuals and individuals residing in motels.
With the recent visit from Hurricane Sandy, the need for our community to band together to meet the needs of those less fortunate was made even more clear than usual. The outpouring of support for people living on the streets and exposed to the elements was truly demonstrated and heartwarming.
Positive Medical Progress Due to Community Services
A female resident struggled throughout her life with an array of medical challenges, a learning disability and severe bouts of depression. Despite her limited education, she was always able to locate employment, but rarely earned enough to afford housing. In search of support with managing her hypertension, she was directed to FACETS to discuss enrolling in the Community Health Care Network (CHCN). Working closely with a FACETS case manager, the female resident was enrolled in CHCN and not only received treatment for her hypertension but also for anemia and bipolar disorder. Following significant medical progress, she began to routinely meet with her FACETS case manager for assistance with gaining employment. Within two months she had secured a full-time position at a local food chain. She recalls, “There were days when I wished I didn’t make it to see another day, but today I’m grateful that someone believed in me enough to help me get the services I needed.”
Inevitable Overcome by Teamwork and Collaboration
The Washington Post reported that one of the most destructive patterns of thunderstorms in memory swept through the entire Washington, D.C. area on June 29, packing wind gusts of 60-80 mph. The storm produced widespread damage, downing hundreds of trees and leaving more than a million area residents without power. Teamwork amongst coworkers and shelter residents, along with community collaboration was clear and evident, and helped empower local shelters that were struck by power outages.
Shelter House’s Patrick Henry Family Shelter (PHFS), which serves families of five or more members, first lost power and phone service that Friday night, and staff on duty began using their cell phones for business communciations. Throughout the weekend, Shelter House staff stayed in close contact with Fairfax County staff for additional support, including the Department of Administration for Human Services, Office of Emergency Management and other providers. Staff urged families in the shelter to leave the facility and stay with friends or family and provided transportation assistance if needed. One family of nine was relocated to Shelter House’s Katherine Hanley Family Shelter (KHFS). In addition, staff offered families trips to cooling centers; provided water, flashlights and nonperishable food; and checked on families hourly.
Sunday afternoon, the PHFS director found hotel space in Woodbridge. Shelter House staff moved the six families who remained in the shelter to the hotel, then closed and locked PHFS until the power issue could be resolved. The next day, staff gathered donated gift cards and items from the facility’s pantry. Staff went to the hotel and met with families, bought bulk food items and used the hotel’s breakfast nook to set up a food donation area where families could pick out groceries.
On Tuesday, July 3, the building manager checked on the security of the shelter while additional staff collected items that clients needed. PHFS staff continued to provide case management support to families in transitional housing programs and offsite programs as well, and shared information on how to replace Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to the emergency.
Power was finally restored Tuesday afternoon and Shelter House staff let the facility cool off overnight before bringing families back on Wednesday, July 4, for the Independence Day Holiday. Thankfully, a local pizza company provided donated pizzas for families upon their return.
In the midst of unexpected challenges, Shelter House staff continued to demonstrate core values. Staff collaborated in new ways. They thought on their feet, coming up with ideas such as setting up “mobile case management” and food distribution in the hotel. Throughout this experience, PHFS was closed but Shelter House’s values of collaboration, accountability, respect and empowerment were open and visible in new ways!
According to a Washington Post report, this kind of fast-moving, long-lived, large and violent thunderstorm complex is known as a derecho. The weather forecast for the week of June 23 reported temperatures in the upper 90s and thunderstorms possible. Yet, as of 24 hours prior and even during the morning of the storm, there was very little indication that this type of storm was coming.
Reston Interfaith’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter (ERCS) was already open as a “no turn away” site for unsheltered homeless persons. Water, food and fans were stockpiled. As the storm grew, case managers and resident services staff reached out to the tenants of our transitional and rental housing programs to remind them of safety procedures and to offer assistance and emergency contact numbers. When the derecho hit, ERCS lost power and phone for three days. Shelter residents shrugged it off, helping staff clean up branches, distribute flashlights and move furniture to open areas where people could be more comfortable.
Reston Interfaith salutes its partners—the staff in all of our programs and our “first responders” who came in to check on others, calming parents or children frightened by the storm. Volunteers reported for their shifts to answer questions, calm fears and accept the outpouring of food and water that began to arrive on Saturday. Fairfax County identified respite sites to relocate the sick and frail homeless who could not take the heat.
Many in our region were surprised by the ferocity of the storm that pounded our region the weekend of June 29. Reston Interfaith sites were not spared, but the combination of advance planning, dedicated staff and volunteers and a generous, caring community made all the difference. Join us in supporting those vulnerable men, women and children in our region who face the perfect storm of barriers to self-sufficiency—high cost of housing, job loss, illness or disability.
Surviving Distressing Experience
A female victim of domestic violence was determined to keep her children safe and not let them be effected by her dreadful event. She didn’t know where to turn and was too proud to tell anyone about what had happened, so she was compelled to sleep at various Metrorail stations in Fairfax County. After researching community support outlets, she learned of FACETS where she participated in a Ready-to-Rent workshop that taught her how to budget, the ins-and-outs of apartment renting, and encouraged her to set future goals. She worked with her FACETS case manager, who mentioned the possibility of participating in Linda’s Gateway program, FACETS’ newest housing program that features five apartments for families who become homeless. The woman was immediately interested and moved into an apartment unit a few days later.
From there, she began to progress at a significant rate. She attended a certification class, and is now professionally certified in her profession. The following week after being certified, the woman was hired by a local agency. The young mother said, “My life is in a truly better place now since working with FACETS—from housing, mentorship and even a car, we can truly make it.” In addition, she believes this program has helped instill confidence in her and her children and enables her to be the best mother she can be.
Support Following Major Loss
A father, mother and their two sons were faced with tragic news; the father was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and was given four months to live. He stopped working and began receiving hospice care in the family’s home and soon after, the family was placed on the family shelter waitlist after receiving a five-day eviction notice. They were referred to FACETS for case management and provided with Housing Opportunities Support Teams (HOST) rental assistance. The mother was not working and stayed at home with her husband while he was receiving hospice care. Nearly four months later, the client’s husband of 20 years passed away. The surviving family’s case manager referred them to grief counseling and assisted them with accessing Social Security benefits. A month later, the mother was forced to begin searching for employment as she again fell behind on the rent and received a five-day eviction notice. FACETS was able to prevent the client’s eviction by using HOST funding to pay her past due rent. The client has recently obtained employment, her sons are doing well in school, and the family was able to remain in their home.
Resources and Solid Determination Pays Off
A county resident completed the 15-month Opportunities, Alternatives & Resources of Fairfax County, Inc. (OAR) mentoring program three months before being released from incarceration. He had been in and out of jail most of his life and most recently due to a failure to pay child support. He had struggled to obtain and maintain employment in the past because of his criminal history and once released, the first two weeks were very difficult as not only was he unemployed, but the local homeless shelters were all full.
He finally secured a bed at a shelter, along with other crucial resources, after continuing to work with his OAR mentor and case manager and once settled into the shelter he became proactive in seeking employment but was faced with additional barriers, such no identification, birth certificate or interview readiness. OAR assisted the resident in obtaining these items and after having an honest conversation about his criminal background with a potential employer, he eventually landed a job.
Over a period of several months, he opened his first checking account and gradually paid off his back child support. Shortly afterwards, he also located his own apartment. With support and solid determination, he was now able to have a better life for him and his family.
Success Demonstrated in Result-Focused Collaboration
The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness is pleased to provide a snapshot of data (made possible through participation of 19 organizations and 120 programs) to reflect upon the outcomes on the partnership's 10-year goals; the collective successes and challenges of the partnership; and the tremendous need that exists in our community.
Community participation is key to seeing results, and every partner makes a difference. “Bowman Systems is proud of our longstanding relationship with Fairfax County. For over 10 years, we have worked closely together to enhance service delivery in the community,” said Bowman Systems President Robert Bowman. “The Fairfax Community Snapshot is a remarkable example of a result-focused collaboration between social service agencies and community leaders to improve the lives of those they serve. We are truly honored to be part of this effort.” Bowman Systems serves providers and communities in the social services sector throughout the United States and Canada developing and supporting information systems that meet unique service delivery and reporting needs.
Since the implementation of the 10-Year Plan, homelessness has decreased more than 14 percent in the Fairfax-Falls Church Community. Homelessness impacts all of us and each of us has a role in ending it. To get more involved or to download copies of the Ending Homelessness in the Fairfax-Falls Church Community SNAPSHOT 2011 report, visit the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership on Ending Homelessness.
Young Adult Siblings Secure and Stable
Due to their mother’s substance abuse issue, a young male and his little sister spent the early part of their lives between foster care placements and living with other family members. They have the same mother but different fathers, and neither have a relationship with their father. After he came of age, the male served seven years in the Nation’s armed forces, then upon his honorable discharge, decided to adopt his sister and was granted full custody. Both individuals are now enrolled in classes at Northern Virginia Community College, the young man for business and his sister for accounting. He is receiving his Government Issued (G.I.) Bill benefits and she is obtaining food stamps. The two were contacted by a Veterans Affair Supportive Housing (VASH) case manager, interviewed by a case worker from the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development and approved for a housing voucher. They were referred to New Hope Housing's (NHH) housing locator for assistance in finding a home near the college. NHH will also assist the young adults with furnishing their new apartment.
Veteran Helped After Honorable Discharge
After an honorable discharge, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps previously stationed in Iraq returned home only to find domestic discord, which triggered his homelessness. Unemployed with no family support, he sought refuge at Baileys Crossroad Community Shelter (BCCS). Since that time, he has attained a position at a prominent corporation and, with the help of BCCS’ housing locator, he will soon be moving into his own apartment with funds he was able to save while in the shelter. He is now in the process of addressing his family circumstances and claims that determination, a positive attitude and drive—as well as the assistance he received from a community provider—all influenced his success in implementing a plan that will soon end his homelessness.