Feel the chill in the air?
Imagine that you are homeless. You are living on the streets or in the woods. Maybe you are lucky enough to be living in a trailer or in your car—but neither has heat. You don’t have a warm coat, warm shoes, a warm shower, or a warm meal.
Under those circumstances, cold takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?
The bone-chilling January that we are experiencing pales in comparison to what the homeless population is suffering.
Allow us to introduce a few of the people (names changed to protect anonymity) at Christ House who have been helped by your support…
Cynthia sleeps in a tent. All of her belongings—her clothes, her blankets, the tent—fit in two suitcases that she carries with her. She frequents our Evening Meal at Christ House and other area pantries. She’s been homeless since fleeing an abusive husband in California. She wipes away tears talking about her two young kids who don’t know why she left or where she is.
Gary sleeps in his van. He’s called the van “home” since 2011 and has found a heated parking garage where he parks at night. His stories of broken relationships are heart-breaking too. But he’s found a community here at the Christ House Evening Meal. Our volunteers joke with Gary as they leave… while he finishes his third helping of the hamburger casserole they prepared.
Terry says the first night he was homeless he slept on the steps of a church. He was also leaving behind domestic disputes and a broken marriage. He has been living at Christ House since October. He’s focusing on his job and school right now so he can provide for his two boys the way his father provided for him. “I know it’s cliché, but Christ House has been such a blessing for me. God’s timing really is perfect.”
Each January, communities across the country take a point-in-time count of homelessness in our nation. On January 28, 2015, about 600,000 people were homeless across the country, including:
- 1,204 homeless people in Fairfax County
- 409 homeless people in Prince William County
- 239 homeless people in Arlington County
The problem of homelessness is much more than the typical picture of a beggar on a city corner with tattered clothing and an empty bottle beside him. It’s men, women, and children who have fallen on hard times—they’ve been laid off, abused, left behind, and are looking for a second chance.
However, the good news is that these people can find refuge from the cold at Catholic Charities, whether it’s a warm meal, warm clothes, or a warm bed. We serve the homeless population in six specific ways.
- Christ House Evening Meal,
- Christ House Men’s Transitional Shelter,
- St. Margaret of Cortona Family Transitional Residence,
- Emergency Financial Assistance,
- Our Thrift Shop, and
- The St. Lucy Food Program.
Christ House Evening Meal
Every night of the year, volunteers prepare a warm meal for 50-75 homeless men, women and children who come to Christ House’s Evening Meal. Some are homeless, living on the streets, in tents or in their cars; others are at risk of becoming homeless.
At Christ House they know they can count on a warm meal prepared with compassion and a warm atmosphere that feels like a family.
Last year, our Evening Meal program gave out 25,550 meals. This program is run by volunteers with a different group preparing and serving the meal each night.
Christ House Men’s Transformational Housing
“We want to be more than three hots and a cot,” says one of our Christ House volunteers. His seemingly simple answer reveals the complexity of Christ House Men’s Transformational Housing, where the focus is to provide a transformational experience for previously homeless men.
The 18 men that currently call Christ House home went through an extensive interview process to live there. They can stay for up to nine months.
To help these men successfully reclaim independence, we help with:
- Housing Preparation
- Family and Social Relations
- Substance Abuse
- Employment and Training
- Debt Reduction
- Mentoring and Spiritual Renewal
- Legal Support
- Mental Health Counseling
St. Margaret of Cortona Family Transformational Residence
Families living at St. Margaret’s typically come from emergency shelters or domestic violence safe houses. Most of the families are comprised of single moms struggling to pay fair market rent in northern Virginia and meet the basic needs of their family.
At St. Margaret’s, they receive a fresh start. Twelve families live in apartments furnished by volunteers and donated goods. Their “rent” is put into savings that they receive back—along with all of the furniture—when they successfully complete the program.
The holistic program includes mental health counseling, new employment skills, financial classes, parenting classes, spiritual formation, and kids’ activities—all designed to help these families thrive on their own.
About 43 percent of those experiencing homelessness in Virginia are persons in families—often with young children. (Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness)
Emergency Financial Assistance
Often times, at-risk families depend on Catholic Charities’ Emergency Financial Assistance program when obstacles interfere with a tight budget. Qualified applicants can receive assistance for rent, utility bills, or prescriptions. This keeps the working poor in their homes and off the streets. Last year, we provided approximately $220,000 for those in urgent need.
Christ House operates a Thrift Shop with inexpensive items for the homeless and working poor such as clothing, shoes, and household items. Recipients of other CCDA services such as food or Emergency Financial Assistance may also receive vouchers for free items from the Thrift Shop.
The St. Lucy Food Program
In 2014, we were blessed with the expanded St. Lucy Food Program, so that, together, we can provide healthy food to the hungry and homeless of our diocese.
The St. Lucy Food Program operates three walk-in pantries in Alexandria, Front Royal, and Leesburg and a new distribution hub in Manassas. It also works with more than 55 partner pantries across the diocese.
This ensures that there is always a warm and welcoming place nearby where the hungry can access healthy foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, milk, and juices. Our goal is to feed their hunger and also nourish their soul.
How YOU Can Join Our Mission of Poverty Awareness
There are many ways you can change the face of homelessness in our diocese. For more information on these programs, please contact the Director of our Community Services, Cathy Hassinger, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 841-2581
Consider making a financial contribution.
Visit www.ccda.net or contact James Michels, Vice President for Development, at JMichels@ccda.net.
We need furniture and household items for families living at St. Margaret of Cortona Family Transitional Residence. Please contact Veronica Roth, Program Director, at VRoth@ccda.net for more information.
Become a volunteer.
Live out your faith by serving our clients through your work. Contact Sally O’Dwyer, Director of Volunteer Services, at SOdwyer@ccda.net to help.