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Local effort places 55 homeless families into permanent homes

In October, a group of advocates for the homeless set an ambitious goal to get 35 families into permanent housing in 100 days.

They ended up finding homes for 55 families—and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

The Home for the Holiday program was a local part of a state campaign to house 740 homeless families across Virginia in 100 days. In the Fredericksburg area, homeless agency directors and other advocates combined forces to create the campaign. They centered it on the holidays and asked the community to donate money.

For about $3,500, the advocates determined they could help a family into a house by providing first month’s rent, a security deposit and utility hookup fees.

The homeless advocates weren’t sure what to expect at first, said Connie Jones, housing locator for Central Virginia Housing Coalition.

“Being the holidays, we didn’t know if people had a lot of extra money to give,” she said.

But the donations poured in. Senior citizen groups pooled their pennies, co-workers skipped office gifts to collect donations and families chipped in together to come up with donations.

Some said they were grateful to be part of something that lasted longer than a toy under a tree, Jones said.

The 55 families were a mixed bunch: two-parent families, grandparents raising their grandchildren, single moms and more.

But they were chosen with one thought in mind: Who could sustain the housing?

“So we needed to find someone who had income,” said Kim Lally, interim director of the Thurman Brisben Center.

Many of the families found Home for the Holidays through Quin Rivers’ program for veterans, some came from the area’s shelters: Thurman Brisben, Hope House and Empowerhouse, which helps people fleeing domestic abuse. And some came from Micah Ecumenical Ministries, which works with chronically homeless people.

Each agency provided ongoing support for families as they settled into their new homes.

The program will continue helping other homeless families, too. State and federal grants have been moving away from funding shelters and into providing permanent housing for the past few years. But the shift has left many homeless programs in a financial pinch. The programs must first pay for the housing, and then will be reimbursed. But shelters still need to pay their own bills and take care of the people in the shelters.

Because of the Home for the Holidays program, shelters will be able to get reimbursements, which will help them put more families into housing, Lally said.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973 


Want to help?

With so many homeless families going into housing, area homeless agencies need furniture and household goods.

To learn more, contact Connie Jones, 540/604-9943, ext. 215, or