One of Arlington's most cherished nonprofit businesses celebrated a milestone last Tuesday. Doorways for Women and Families held a groundbreaking ceremony at its shelter, which will be razed and rebuilt in order to house more families.
THE NEW Freddie Mac Family Shelter will be able to house 21 families, which is up from 16 before. The current house is 60 years old and has been serving as Doorways' shelter since 1989. Executive Director Linda Dunphy said she expects the new shelter to be "the finest looking homeless shelter" in the area.
Several corporate citizens in Arlington have contributed to this project, most notably Freddie Mac, which contributed $500,000. NV Homes is managing the project through Northern Virginia HomeAid, which contributes building supplies and labor to charitable projects. HomeAid, through its network of local builders, is contributing almost $400,000 to the project in materials and labor. Architectural firm Rust, Orling and Neale has created the blueprints for the new shelter as part of the HomeAid partnership. Doorways' goal is to reach $2.4 million toward the shelter, and has already raised $1.6 million.
Russ Rosenberg, president of HomeAid Northern Virginia, said "HomeAid is delighted to bring the resources of the homebuilding industry" to the project. HomeAid recently completed its sixth shelter project in Seven Corners, but it frequently helps with minor renovations on existing shelters. "This is our first project in Arlington County," Rosenberg said, "but certainly not our last."
Del. Al Eisenberg (D-47) spoke at the groundbreaking. "Doorways has been a tremendous resource for Arlington County," he said. He called the shelter's service "absolutely essential" to the community. Doorways runs both a shelter and a safehouse, in addition to providing counseling, skills training and financial education to its clients.
ALTHOUGH THE current shelter has served the community well, it is in dire need of major repairs. According to Executive Director Linda Dunphy, "the children's room in the basement stinks from a sewer pipe, and the walls of the top dorm have water damage, as do the walls of the living room. You can actually push them in."
Colin Davis, who has worked at the shelter for many years, described some of the clients the shelter has helped. "We recently had a family of three generations. The grandmother was 40, the mother was 17, and she had a 5 year old." He said they just didn't have a safe place to live, and had been bouncing from place to place. While Doorways' safehouse is for abused women, the shelter often houses whole families that have fallen on hard times. The shelter is staffed 24 hours a day.
"Our clients are very motivated to move on," Davis explained. While finding affordable housing is hard for anyone in Arlington, those coming out of a shelter face more severe circumstances. "We provide financial education," says Davis. "We work with their back debt so they look better to landlords." Impressively, "we recently had a client buy a house," says Kelly Ferris, director of development for Doorways.
Referring to the TV show "Extreme Home Makeover," Jon Adler, who is president of NV Homes, said "I just want to clarify that this is going to take more than a week," which got a laugh from the crowd.
During the months in which the shelter is being completed, members of the community in need will not be without help. Raina Rose Tagle serves as president of the Board of Doorways. "We'll be working with other community partners," she says. "Our services will continue for children and families during the rebuilding period."
MAXINE BAKER of Freddie Mac presented Doorways with a $500,000 check at the groundbreaking. "We're delighted today that Doorways has decided to name the new shelter the Freddie Mac Family Shelter," she said. "Although I'm not crazy about the word 'shelter'. We'll have to work on that."
Until the proper word is found, these community partners will be putting their resources toward building a better home for those in need. As Raina Rose Tagle said, "The families and children residing here will be very well served. It will be a top-notch home." To see a drawing of the new shelter, visit www.doorwayva.org, and to find out more about the project, visit www.homeaidnova.com.