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Opening Doors for People in Need

FACETS celebrates volunteers, donors at annual benefit breakfast.

Amanda Andere, (center), FACETS executive director, listens with other guests during FACETS annual benefit breakfast at the Waterford in Fair Oaks Thursday, May 10.

Amanda Andere, (center), FACETS executive director, listens with other guests during FACETS annual benefit breakfast at the Waterford in Fair Oaks Thursday, May 10. Photo by Victoria Ross.

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From left, FACETS speaker Raven Bowden; Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), Amanda Andere, FACETS executive director; FACETS Board Chair John Martin of Great Falls and FACETS speaker Frank Somers at the nonprofit’s annual benefit breakfast, held at the Waterford in Fair Oaks Thursday, May 10.

FACETS Community Impact

In 2011, FACETS members and volunteers

*donated more than 30,000 hours

*prepared and delivered more than 37,000 hot meals to people who live in motels, cars, the woods and on Fairfax County streets

*provided more than 150 youth with backpacks filled with school supplies

*assisted 2,000 families with programs to prevent and end homelessness

*moved 130 families and nine individuals into housing

*For more information on FACETS, and ways to volunteer or donate, go to www.FACETScares.org or call 703-352-5090.

Surrounded by nearly 350 business executives, politicians and community leaders in the chandeliered ballroom of the Waterford, Frank Somers - dressed in jeans, sneakers and a denim work shirt - looked a little out of place.

But it was Somers’ voice that held the attention of the high-wattage crowd, as he took the podium and told the audience his story of homelessness during FACETS annual "Opening Doors Benefit Breakfast," on Thursday morning, May 10.

"I was down and out. You can’t get more down and out than I was," the stocky 47-year-old told the audience. "I want you all to know how FACETS can change a life, how they changed my life."

Founded in 1988, FACETS helps Fairfax County’s most vulnerable residents break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through various programs, services and partnerships with 100 faith communities, local businesses, other nonprofits and government agencies.

"I used to consider myself lucky. I had it all," Somers told the crowd. "I had a good job doing landscaping, friends, an apartment…"

BUT IN 2008, Somers had a heart attack. He had no health insurance, and used what savings he had on medical bills. After spending nearly a month in intensive care at Fairfax Inova hospital, he learned that he had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and had to take 13 different pills each day to survive.

He also found that he had no place to live and no job because of his health crisis.

"I was renting out the basement of my niece’s house," Somers said. "When I got out of the hospital, everything was gone. She cleaned me out. I had $87 in my pocket and nowhere to go."

Somers took the cash he had, and spent two nights at the Breezeway Motel in Fairfax, before becoming one of Fairfax County’s homeless statistics. Still recovering from his surgery, Somers said he was too ashamed and depressed to reach out to friends and family. He bought a sleeping bag, and decided to sleep under a bridge in Annandale.

After two months of living under the bridge and looking for work during the day, he learned about FACETS through a social worker at the hospital.

"I called them on a Thursday. By Friday, they made sure I had a real place to sleep. They made sure I got transportation to and from my doctor’s appointments… They always said yes," Somers said. A Chantilly High School graduate who once played high school football, Somers said he’s still shocked he became homeless. "I want to work for what’s mine. I never thought I’d be in that situation."

"The lesson learned," said U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11), a longtime advocate for the homeless who gave the welcome address, "is that ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’"

"Too many of our veterans are homeless, one in four of our children receive free and reduced lunches, 1,600 children in Fairfax County are homeless," Connolly said, "Your presence and continued participation is so vital to FACETS."

Connolly noted that Fairfax County is one of the few communities in the nation to reduce its homeless population during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In 2008, under Connolly’s direction as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the board initiated the 10-year-plan to prevent and end homelessness, and funded the county’s first agency to carry out that mission. Since then, Fairfax County has reduced its homeless population by 16 percent.

"We are making progress," Connolly said. "That success is the result of the tremendous work of FACETS dedicated volunteers and community partners, but, as you know, much work is left to be done."

"At FACETS, we envision a day when everyone in Fairfax County has access to adequate and affordable housing and nobody is homeless, "said Amanda Andere, FACETS executive director.

"Each of us plays a crucial role in…opening doors for those suffering the effects of poverty. We ask you to continue supporting the thousands of individuals right here in our community who are faced with inconceivable challenges," Andere said.

THANKS TO FACETS, Somers is now living in an apartment in Reston, and looking for full-time landscaping work while working part-time jobs. He also volunteers with FACETS, speaking at fundraising events and helping where he can, such as cleaning up campsites occupied by the homeless population.

"Without FACETS, I don’t know where I’d be. My health is better. I graduated from FACETS financial classes, to get myself back on track. I took classes to learn how to control my diabetes," Somers said.

A divorced father of five, Somers said the joy of his life is seeing his children and grandchildren. "My son takes classes at Northern Virginia Community College. We speak almost every day, and he helps me with my landscaping jobs when he’s not in school. I’m very proud of him."

After the breakfast, several audience members gathered around Somers, chatting with him and shaking his hand. "I just want you to know you really inspired me," Carla McTigue of Fairfax said. "Thank you for sharing your story."