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Guest Post: HomeAid Northern Virginia

Catalogue nonprofit HomeAid Northern Virginia is in the business of connecting local housing organizations and emergency shelters with professional homebuilders, trade partners, and sub-contractors who can offer the best renovations at the lowest costs. In this guest blog post, Executive Director Christy Eaton discusses one partnership that helped change the lives of hundreds of homeless residents. Read more about HomeAid Northern Virginia on their website, and learn more about other Catalogue nonprofits working to end homelessness here.

Public-Private Partnership Results in Renovation for Transitional Housing Program – and Brings Hope to Formerly Homeless Women and Families

By Christy Eaton, Executive Director, HomeAid Northern Virginia

The Washington, D.C., area is the ninth most expensive place to live in the U.S., with area homeowners averaging $8,798 in monthly living expenses and renters averaging $6,444 (Council for Community and Economic Research). In Virginia, 15 percent of children are living in poverty (Kids Count).

In Northern Virginia, home to some of the nation’s richest counties, nearly 1,000 children in families were identified as being homeless in 2012 (Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments).

It’s a dichotomy that HomeAid Northern Virginia has been seeking to change since we were established in 2001. We have built and renovated homeless shelters, transitional houses and other facilities throughout Northern Virginia in an effort to end homelessness in a region where many think no such problems exist. But we don’t do it alone: working with homebuilders, trade partners, government officials, and private and corporate donors, we have completed 77 projects with a retail value of nearly $12 million more than half of which was donated and has allowed service providers the ability to focus millions more of their funding on programs and services for their clients rather than on facility repairs. Together, we’ve given new hope to more than 20,000 individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet in our region.

What is perhaps most critical to our success is our ability to develop public-private partnerships between homebuilders, non-profits and government agencies. For one of our most recent projects, a $250,000 renovation of eight apartments at the Loudoun Transitional Housing Program, we brought together the Loudoun County government, which owns the property; Volunteers of America Chesapeake, which operates the transitional housing program at the shelter; and homebuilders Miller & Smith and Winchester Homes to lead the renovation, along with 32 trade partners, suppliers and manufacturers.

I worked closely with builder captain project managers Scott Alford, operations manager, Miller & Smith, and Brian Phebus, director of production, Winchester Homes; Russell K. Snyder, president of Volunteers of America Chesapeake; and Hope Stonerook, deputy director of the Loudoun County Department of Family Services. Together, as a team, we were able to bring this project to completion, on time and on budget. It was a partnership in the truest sense of the word, and everyone throughout Loudoun County will benefit.

The homeless families and single women who live in the transitional shelter are, of course, among our greatest beneficiaries. Living in well-designed, high-quality homes returns much-needed dignity to peoples lives and boosts their self-esteem, allowing formerly homeless clients to regain confidence and long-term stability.

In fact, Scott York, Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, pointed out that providing housing and supportive services to homeless families and single women has had very real impact: “Since the Department of Family Services began managing the program in 2006,” he said, “more than 200 individuals have been served. In the last five years, 96 percent of the people discharged from the program have moved to a permanent housing situation.”

Upon seeing their new apartments for the first time, we heard one mom say, “I was completely shocked to see the new rooms; what a feeling to have the help my family and I are getting through this program, and to be able to come back each day to these rooms. They’re like luxury apartments, and they make me feel worth something.”

Interestingly, the Loudoun facility was, according to Hope Stonerook, a joint effort between the County and the building industry when it was first built in 1991. “Even then,” she said, “the County donated the land, and the building industry donated the materials and labor.”

Finding two Builder Captains to take on the job of renovating all eight apartments this year was not difficult: Miller & Smith has worked with HomeAid Northern Virginia on nearly 10 other projects, and Winchester Homes has served as Builder Captain for a half-dozen of our projects over the years. Both companies are committed to corporate philanthropy, have made giving back a core value, and are always among the first to step up and do whatever it takes to help us make a difference in the lives of those who need help.

For this project, all eight apartments now feature entirely new kitchens with granite countertops, seating and custom-designed tables with peninsula tops; upgraded bathrooms with custom shelving; laminate hardwood flooring in the entry and living areas; improved light fixtures, electrical systems and plumbing work; built-in storage by each bed; bedding, doors, blinds and wire closet shelving systems; and interior furnishings.

Interior design team, Carlyn and Company Interiors + Design, helped maximize functionality of the relatively small apartment spaces, focusing on maximizing storage and reconfiguring the living space. They transformed plain, small apartments into homes that residents could feel proud of.

For the $250,000 project, 87 percent of the total cost was donated by builders, trade partners and HomeAid. The remaining cost, a little more than $30,000, was paid by Volunteers of America Chesapeake. There was zero cost to Loudoun County taxpayers.

“We couldn’t have imagined the transformation made possible by this partnership,” Volunteers of America’s Russ Snyder told me, “and because of it, we can change lives and give people independence. So many people in our communities are living on the edge due to loss of employment; loss of primary support in the household; domestic violence; medical or mental health issues; and a lack of affordable housing and without fail they’ve always been thankful for whatever we could provide them. But we knew that they could have a much better experience through this renovation. They’ll be happy to come home now.”

I knew Russ was right when I heard another mom say, “I think that these rooms are really good for my children. They see these rooms, and they know that there are people who care about us. These rooms give all of us something to work toward – the people who did this for us are God’s angels.”

Smart renovations and design maximized the functionality of eight apartments at the Loudoun Transitional Housing Program, turning small, stark spaces into beautiful, welcoming ones.