FALLS CHURCH, VA -- A local organization focused on empowering homeless families is looking to double it's size to accommodate the influx of families affected by the coronavirus crisis, while supporting the families they currently serve who are facing similar new challenges.
“The mission of Homestretch VA is to empower families... to secure permanent housing, to attain the skills, knowledge, and hope [necessary] to achieve lasting economic self-sufficiencies," Christopher Fay, Executive Director of Homestretch VA told 104.7 WONK FM's Jen Richer.
For over 30 years, Homestretch staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters have been creating a web of services to surround and support their clients and address the root problems of their homelessness.
"This is a very rigorous program with a huge depth of services, and to address all the different kind of things that cause that family to get knocked off their feet. We help them find jobs, help them enroll in school, and pay for scholarships so they’re not saddled with additional debt," Fay described.
Overcoming financial debt can be increasingly difficult under the coronavirus crisis for many American families. A recent poll by CBS found that 63 percent of Americans are stressed about their personal finances because of the pandemic, and 34 percent are worried about paying their household bills.
Those worries are compounded for families in the Homestretch program.
"It has a profound effect on the families in lots of ways. Most of these families are part-time employees, and usually the job they’ve got is the kind of job that may not be part of their ultimate carrier path, but it’s giving them something in their pocket while they’re also working on their school," Fay said. "[Now] many of those jobs have disappeared: those are retail jobs, those are service jobs, in those industries that have had to close their door, so a lot of our families are unemployed, and many of the schools they were going to are closed. Like so many other people, they are suddenly finding all this progress that they are working on, has suddenly found this major detour, and they’re unable to move forward."
Despite the financial challenges, Fay is optimistic, "the good news is, they’re all housed, so everyone in the program that had a home still has a home, for the duration of this crisis. Much of what we’re doing for these families is making sure that they have the resources they need to stay safe."
Homestretch Va is also focused on the physical and emotional toll their families in the program face.
"We have a lot of services designed around helping them restore their health. One of the common problems among homeless families is they have lots of physical and mental health problems that [hold] them down and so we’ll help them get those services to get them back on their feet in that regard," Fay said.
For most families, the Homestretch program lasts about two years. "Basically, they stay in our program and work with us until they get to the point where they can move out and move into housing they can afford," Faye said.
With the staggering numbers of American filing for unemployment benefits, Homestretch VA is concerned many families will become vulnerable, and would like to expand their program to accommodate additional Virginian families.
Currently, Homestretch VA is able to serve 50 families, "that’s about 50 parents and about 150 kids, so at any given time we’re serving 50 families," Fay said, but they are looking to double their occupancy in light of the coronavirus crisis. To make that possible Fay said the organization would need to raise $1.5 million dollars.
For more information, visit Homestretch VA here
Listen to the full interview here: