Arlington The organizations taking care of Arlington County’s homeless problem aren’t flush with cash. Yet the organizations that account for the 39 percent decrease in homelessness in Arlington in 2014 while the District of Columbia saw an increase of 19 percent — the “Continuum of Care” — are able to function because of the cohesion between them.
According to Scott Miller, senior director of development at A-Span, the organization operates with a budget of about $2 million and a staff of 27 people. Thirty percent of A-Span’s funding comes from individual donors as well as corporate donors, like Boeing, SAIC, and Monday Properties — companies that do business here and appreciate the work of A-Span. Very little money comes from the State of Virginia. Seventy percent of the funding comes from a foundation grant from federal funds. Arlington County funds play a role in supporting A-Span and other organizations in the Continuum.
Most of what Continuum organizations do is made possible through partnerships. The Emergency Winter Shelter is run by Arlington County in partnership with A-Span. The faith community in Arlington donates money and volunteer hours: over 15,000 volunteer hours a year. Every year A-Span hold a Walkathon in the Fall, raising money for the organization, and every spring, it has a fundraising breakfast.
But the role of these organizations is bigger than providing shelter and food, Miller said. Solving the homeless issue is bigger than housing people. There are things “housing organizations” can’t afford that make a house a home: towels, pots, pans, vacuum cleaners, a painting, a potted plant. Miller urges anyone who has things to give away to just call one of the organizations. They will find a home for old items. There are aspects to a homeless person’s life which are missing after years on the street: no address, no birth certificate, no credit cards. All these things have to be obtained and cost money to get. A-Span, for instance, receives mail for the homeless of Arlington, sorting it every day with volunteers. A-Span prepares and distributes meals at two locations every day of the week. Doorways, running two shelters for victims of domestic violence who can’t go home, has the task of providing emotional support to parents and children.
As the CEO of A-Span Kathy Sibert said: As you drive home at night, you should know there is an army of volunteers out there at night. You should know that many homeless “clients” of Arlington’s Continuum of Care organizations work: 83 percent of the homeless live on less than $1,000 a month. Sixty-three percent live on less than $500 a month. They aren’t standing out on the street corner asking for funds and holding up a sign, and they need local support to stay housed or get housed.