November is Homeless Awareness Month (November 2016)
The Embry Rucker Community Shelter stands as a beacon in our community – a steadfast reminder of our community’s needs as well as Reston’s collective commitment to serve those who are less fortunate. However, beyond the bricks and mortar are the men, women and children whose stories stretch beyond the weeks that they are residents of the shelter.
It can be difficult to comprehend that in Fairfax County – the second wealthiest county in the nation – there are more than 1,000 individuals who are homeless on any given night, a third of which are children. For those who are homeless, coming into the Embry Rucker Community Shelter (ERCS) is often the first step toward stability. At ERCS, Cornerstones provides safe, emergency housing for families and single men and women 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Clients build goals and find solutions with the help of Cornerstones’ care managers. Click here to read about Michael Gross, a Cornerstones Care Manager, whose brother struggled with homelessness. For Michael, helping the homeless is not just a job — it’s personal.
Our comprehensive services at ERCS include child care, medical assistance, nutritious meals, a nurse on staff and financial counseling. In addition, our in-house employment specialist helps unemployed or underemployed residents expand their skills as they prepare to look for work. For children, we offer tutoring and mentoring to help them achieve developmental and academic milestones. We also employ a full-time licensed housing broker who specializes in finding both traditional and non-traditional affordable housing options and helps our residents settle into stable housing as quickly as possible.
Needs are rarely ever isolated. Those who find themselves homeless often are facing other immediate needs like hunger or illness, as well as long-term challenges, like finding employment that pays a living wage, securing affordable childcare so that parents are able to work, and finding safe and affordable housing that will allow them to put down roots where their children can grow and thrive. For that reason, Cornerstones has adopted a model of providing wrap-around services and referrals to our network of partners to help our clients face the many challenges that stand in their way of success and stability. Click here to read about one of our clients, “Jeff”, who struggled to find solutions to his need for steady work and budget management, and how Michael Gross helped him on a path to stability.
Cornerstones’ support continues after the immediate crisis has passed, focusing on reducing poverty over the long-term. Last year Cornerstones helped 52 families and 84 individuals leave the Embry Rucker Shelter and homelessness, and nearly 70% are stably housed 6 months later. Through our financial mentoring program, 33 families who were formerly homeless have now saved $118,000 in trust accounts to reduce debt, get an education and even save to buy a home.
Moving a family out of the shelter and in to affordable housing costs about $5,000 – an investment that improves physical and psychological health, giving adults the ability to be successful at work and children the ability to succeed in school. You can support our efforts to move families out of shelter and into permanent housing by:
- Volunteering – Cornerstones is always in need of volunteers who can help us further our mission. Volunteers can support the shelter by providing childcare and tutoring, leading activities for youth, and by aiding shelter operations through landscaping, painting, repairs, etc. Contact Alger@cornerstonesva.org to learn about seasonal and ongoing volunteer opportunities at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter.
- Voting – Consider supporting Fairfax County’s new revenue-generating proposals like the Human Services and Community Development Bond, which can support programs in the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Also on the ballot this year will be a meals tax referendum which would provide revenue support to human services programs like the ones offered at ERCS.
- Donating to Cornerstones! Cornerstones is always thrilled to receive cash or in-kind donations that can directly support our clients.
- We can accept donations of food, small home appliances, unopened toiletries and cleaning products, and new toys.
- Cornerstones is also currently collecting new and clean, gently used coats and jackets as well as new hats, gloves, scarves through November 9th for the annual Winter Coat Closet.
- The Annual Gifts for Kids Drive is also in motion! Confirm your donation commitment by November 18th by clicking here.
- And, watch for details about our Cornerstones to a Connected Community Year-End Appeal, one of our most important fund-raising initiatives. Your support plays a critical role in the services we provide to sustain lives and strengthen communities—one individual, one child, one family at a time.
To learn more about Cornerstones, attend a one-hour “Virtual Tour” of our services. Click here to see available dates!