Reston St. John Neumann Catholic Church provided shelter to almost 40 people per night last week, as part of FACETS’ Hypothermia Prevention Program, which provides shelter for homeless people in the area during the winter months.
More than 35 different faith communities around the county participate in the program, which goes on from November to March at rotating churches.
"We’re trying to make sure people have a place to sleep when it’s cold, and we also try to provide food, services and entertainment," said Mary Supley Foxworth, assistant director of development for FACETS, which is a Fairfax-based nonprofit.
The idea is to get homeless people into a warm building on winter nights.
"We’re trying to get the clients into a place of safety, so we don’t hear these sad stories about homeless people freezing to death," said Joe Burke, treasurer of FACETS, and a member of St. John Neumann.
Since 2009, FACETS has also provided case management at he shelters, allowing the clients to take advantage of the various services offered.
"Many of our clients have been homeless for a long time, and our case managers provide them with opportunities to strengthen their life skills," Supley Foxworth said. "At the end of the first season, 18 of them found housing, so now it’s required."
THE SHELTER opens every night around 5:30 p.m. Clients show up on their own or are bussed in from other parts of the county. On Thursday, Jan. 19, the Bank Street Band played for them as they ate, and there were even stations set up where they could get foot baths.
"Feet are one of the most affected parts of the body when you’re homeless, they get fungus, calluses and blisters, and they can get very sore," said Lori McLean, a nurse and member of the St. John Neumann Health Ministry. "We’re here to give those feet some TLC, and we’re following our mission, literally washing the feet of our disciples."
According to FACETS, 141 people spent at least one night at one of the shelters last winter.
"A quarter of the people living in Northern Virginia can’t meet their basic needs," said Amanda Andere, executive director of FACETS. "Sixty percent of the people we serve work every day, but still can’t afford to live in this community."
One of their clients, Deric, who asked only to be identified with his first name, has experienced firsthand what FACETS can do to break the cycle of homelessness. He switched jobs back in 2008, but the new job fell through, and he found himself unable to find a new one.
"Eventually I fell behind on rent, and I was literally homeless for almost two years," he said. "I ended up coming to one of the shelters when it got cold, and it was amazing to walk into a warm place with food and caring people."
Deric began taking advantage of FACETS’ case management services, and in June 2010 he was able to find an apartment through FACETS. He was also able to find seasonal work during the holidays, and is currently looking for a full time job.
"The best thing is knowing where I’ll be every night, and that wasn’t always the case," he said. "My life is in such a better place. I’m still looking for a job, but I’ve taken the first step and have a place to live."
MORE INFORMATION on FACETS can be found at www.facetscares.org.