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Opening Doors for Neighbors in Need

FACETS marks 25 years of community service.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-11) gave the opening remarks at the 2013 Opening Doors Benefit Breakfast in support of FACETS at the Waterford at Fair Oaks on April 25.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-11) gave the opening remarks at the 2013 Opening Doors Benefit Breakfast in support of FACETS at the Waterford at Fair Oaks on April 25. Photo by Robbie Hammer.

“A few years ago my life underwent two major changes that shook my world. … My husband and I separated and then I lost my job.”

Lisa, a Fairfax mother, delivered that blunt statement during her speech to a crowd of more than 400 people during FACETS’ “Opening Doors” Benefit Breakfast on April 25.

The breakfast was part of a yearlong celebration marking FACETS’ 25 years of service in the community, providing support to individuals and families to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

“FACETS is a great example of engaged citizens coming together to make their community a better place to live, by helping those in need find housing and other services,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock).

THE EVENT featured remarks from U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11), an active supporter of the nonprofit, and FACETS founder Linda Wimpey.

“Every day I wake up with dreams of working myself out of a job … I want to fundamentally change the situations people in need face so I can stand here—not 25 years from now but in two years—and say we are on track to end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty.”

—Amanda Andere, FACETS executive director

“Linda had the vision that FACETS would be the place where caring, committed people held the dreams and visions of people in need and worked with them until those dreams for a better life could be realized,” said Amanda Andere, FACETS executive director since 2009.

In an emotionally charged speech, Lisa told the attendees she could not have survived without the help of FACETS.

She said her situation spiraled down quickly when her husband did not provide financial support, and her next job did not pay enough for her to rent an apartment in the county.

“Panic set in,” she said. “With my recent cut in pay, finding something I could afford for my daughter and I seemed impossible.”

After moving from one basement apartment to another, she and her daughter began living in a homeless shelter.

At the shelter, she connected with a FACETS case manager who helped her apply for housing assistance through Fairfax County’s Bridging Affordability Program, which provides rental subsidies and supportive services to low-income families. Bridging Affordability, a nonprofit collaborative led by Northern Virginia Family Services (NVFS), has assisted more than 100 families since it was launched in September 2011.

Today, she and her daughter live in a two-bedroom apartment, and she is pursuing a business degree at Northern Virginia Community College while working in cosmetics.

“I never thought battling with poverty and homelessness was something I would face … FACETS helped me take steps towards economic stability and set me up for success,” Lisa said.

While Lisa’s story is inspirational, many more Fairfax County residents continue to struggle on the knife-edge of poverty and homelessness.

Nearly 60,000 people live in poverty in Fairfax County, and many say they are just one paycheck away from being homeless.

According to Fairfax County officials, hundreds of local individuals and families have lost housing vouchers because of sequester cuts to the housing choice voucher program, a Housing and Urban Development program that helps the working poor, elderly and disabled afford housing in high-rent markets afford housing.

“FACETS clients and so many others are being impacted by sequestration. With the loss of housing choice vouchers our progress to end homelessness is beginning to stall,” said Amanda Andere, FACETS executive director since 2009. “While the breakfast provided inspiration, it also brought home the fact that FACETS is still needed in the community.”

ANDERE NOTED some of FACETS recent successes by working with Fairfax County government, faith partners and other nonprofits:

  • In the last three years FACETS helped 43 people who once were living on the streets find a place to call home.
  • In the past two years, FACETS helped prevent and end homelessness for more than 400 families.
  • In the last year, 11 out of the 13 graduating high school seniors in FACETS Education and Community Development program went on to pursue higher education.

But Andere said she wakes up every day with dreams of working herself out of a job.

“I want to fundamentally change the situations people in need face so I can stand here—not 25 years from now but in two years—and say we are on track to end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty,” she said.