After 27 years of serving the homeless community in Fairfax County, New Hope Housing received the Best Housing Organization 2004 award from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“We are a homeless service provider in the southeast part of the county,” said New Hope’s executive director Pam Michell. “We serve up to 200 people on any given night, providing shelter for both families and single adults.”
New Hope Housing operates more than a dozen shelter and transitional housing facilities, housing homeless families and single adults, in addition to offering shelter for mentally ill individuals that have been released from hospitals, Michell said. The organization also supplies health and mentoring services, to help clients become prepared for living on their own.
Del. Kristen J. Amundson, (D-44th) nominated New Hope Housing, an organization of which she was president for three years.
“It’s a terrific group of people,” she said. “When I knew the governor was looking for a housing organization to recognized, New Hope seemed the logical choice. They don’t look at the problem of homelessness as a one-time deal.”
She said that the team at New Hope “knows there are difficult and complex reasons” for a person or family that drives them to homelessness, and “they address those issues knowing it’s not that simple. Most people who go to the shelter need a lot more than just a place to stay short- term.”
“This award is recognition of the dedicated staff and volunteers at New Hope Housing,” said Michell. “We work with those for whom all others have given up hope. There is nothing more gratifying than meeting the needs of and giving hope to the men, women and children in our community, who find themselves homeless.”
“SHELTERS are a stop-gap measure” in stopping homelessness, Michell said. “Shelters have become way too permanent housing. What we need is to do more with affordable housing. There are so many people who work a job that pays $7 or $8 per hour and they just can’t afford to live here.”
“New Hope offers transitional housing for single adults who maybe haven’t saved up enough yet to have their own place, so they can live there and save enough for the deposit and first month’s rent.
With the cold winter weather approaching, Michell and her co-workers are preparing for the upcoming demand for their services.
“We definitely see an increase in the number of clients and services we offer in the winter,” Michell said. “We add 12 beds to the shelter in Falls Church and 10 to the Kennedy Shelter, where we also have a no turn-away policy on nights where the temperature falls below 32 degrees.”
“They also have a hypothermia emergency shelter during the winter,” Amundson said.
NEW HOPE did not receive any monetary award along with its recognition.
“It’s a challenge for non-profit organizations; people want to make sure when they donate their money that it’s being used for a good cause and we want to help gain that credibility,” Michell said. “Any little bit helps.”
New Hope does receive “a significant amount of money” from Fairfax County, but the rest of the $2 million annual operating budget comes from individual donors, organizations and churches, she said. However, she’s hoping that this award will help New Hope stand out when applying for grants.
“Most applications ask what kind of awards you’ve received, so this will definitely help,” she said. “We need to build the reputation because we want to do innovative things and we pride ourselves on being creative, but in order to do that, we need money.”
“I hope the citizens in our community, who have supported New Hope from the beginning, will take as much pride in this award as we do,” Amundson said. “We’ve gone out of the way to create an organization that provides help and hospitality in our community to those who need it.”
This award, handed out annually for the past few years, is designed to “recognize the incredible efforts happening in the Virginia community to address a wide array of housing issues,” said Tamera Tomadge-Anderson, public relations director for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“This is the largest affordable housing event of the year; we had about 800 people that attended,” she said. “A lot of these non-profits work quietly in their communities and people are unaware that these groups exist and how they work.”
New Hope stood out for having “great growth and progress in their services,” Anderson said. “They started their transitional housing program in 1992 and have taken on more (services and locations) in addition to the shelters. Plus, they have a partnership with the county that helps to further serve and help families,” she said.
The conference served to address all issues of housing needs, from homelessness to home ownership, she said.
NEW HOPE HOUSING is the oldest and largest provider of shelter beds in Northern Virginia serving more than 1,000 different individuals each year with a yearly budget of $3 million. Founded in 1977 as Route One Corridor Housing, New Hope now operates programs that house 200 people each night, including four shelter programs; transitional housing programs; long-term housing program; permanent supportive housing for families; comprehensive education and employment resource enter; and a children’s service program.
New Hope operates with a professional staff of 80 people and an army of volunteers from the community. Though much of its budget comes from Fairfax County and other government sources, contributions from individuals, faith communities, organizations and businesses provide over 20 percent of needed support.
(Reporter Gale Curcio also contributed to this story.)