“FACETS, thank you for 30 wonderful years, keep it going. I hope in 30 years we’re out of business and don’t need this breakfast.” —U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11)
If you have ever wondered what impact local nonprofits really have on social issues in our area or what long-term benefits they provide to the area’s most vulnerable, attendance at the 8th annual FACETS Breakfast, themed “Hope in Bloom” and held on April 25, would have answered your curiosity in an eloquent and heart-warming way.
Yes, there was a celebrity emcee to guide the event, in the person of NBC News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey. Yes, there was a prominent and influential featured speaker in Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11), with additional remarks by FACETS Executive Director Joe Fay and Board Chair Don Harris. There was even a video presentation showing some of the work being done by the Fairfax-based nonprofit whose mission is to aid those facing or experiencing homelessness, providing emergency shelter and needs, helping them gain safe and permanent housing and “working with them to end the cycle of poverty through education, life skills and career counseling.”
But what really hit home and highlighted the lasting good that can be accomplished when community works together, were the “courageous client speakers” who took to the podium to tell their personal stories.
Richard was first up. With his vision lost to glaucoma, Richard was escorted to the stage by caseworkers Ruben Aquino and Candice Stancil of FACETS’ Supportive Housing services.
Richard has experienced homelessness more than once, with substance abuse a contributing factor the first time around.
“I came to this area and found help. My sobriety days began on August the 8, 1997,” Richard told the audience with quiet pride.
AFTER FINDING ASSISTANCE the first time, Richard actually began working with other homeless, initially as a volunteer at the Bailey’s Crossroad Community Shelter, and then as an employee of the facility. But as those who work with our neighbors in need well know, stability can be a precarious perch in our expensive hometown. As his sight began to fail, in 2011 Richard had an accident. Hesitant to reach out again for fear of losing what he finally had achieved – employment and his dignity - Richard fell into homelessness once more, seeking shelter in abandoned homes in Annandale.
When his “home” was discovered, Richard had to move out into the unsheltered world again, but found a new path when he visited the Safe Haven drop-in day shelter run by the First Christian Church in Falls Church.
“That’s when I engaged with FACETS,” he said. With their support and the caring assistance of Aquino and Stancil who worked with him to secure the resources he needed, Richard has now been living for years in independent housing.
“I thank FACETS for working with me to maintain my independence. I have two of the best case managers standing here beside me today. I thank them and you.”
Yvette and case manager Tanner Sigmon were up next.
Yvette, who hails from southern Springfield, described a childhood in a good home in a good neighborhood. She worked full time in law firms and saved enough money to buy her own townhouse when she was just 23.
She sold that home and moved to Roanoke, “but bad things happened there, and I came back.”
With no money, no job, and a different family relationship than before, Yvette called a tent in the woods her home. Eventually she met Tanner at the Lamb Center, a day shelter in Fairfax offering meals, laundry service, access to general healthcare, counselling, job search help, and more.
Yvette advises that others like her have to be prepared to “self help” and do the work, actively participating in improving their lives, but you “should ask for help, and offer it when you can.”
After 12 years of homelessness, Yvette now has a safe place of her own to call home and feels that with Tanner and FACETS’ help, her life is “moving forward.”
Printice, who also came to FACETS through the Lamb Center was the final “Courageous Client Speaker,” accompanied by his case manager Robert Tindall.
“A very bad divorce” and health issues contributed to his homeless state, during which time he suffered several heart attacks. At the benefit breakfast, Printice did not so much tell his own story in detail, as take the opportunity to thank the many people who have helped him into safe housing and better health.
FACETS was founded in 1988 by Linda Wimpey, starting as a three-nights-a-week outreach program in partnership with a few area churches to tend to the needs of homeless families.
“When I was the Providence District Supervisor, I delivered hot meals with Linda,” recalled Connolly.
“I will never forget seeing people come out of the woods wearing suits on their way to work.”
Connolly credits Wimpey and FACETS with being instrumental in developing the county’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, adopted when he was Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and with playing “a big role” in the “penny on the tax rate” budget item that puts money toward affordable housing in the county.
What FACETS is and what they do has grown significantly over the years. Dozens of area faith communities and businesses now partner with FACETS and a network of nonprofit and county service agencies to continue the battle against homelessness and poverty.
AT THE BREAKFAST, FACETS also celebrated 15 years of operating the annual Hypothermia Prevention and Response Program for the county’s Human Services Region 4 - Western County/Fairfax and Centreville areas. During the cold months from November through March, the homeless are offered shelter, meals and services at partnering area churches, with each faith community taking on a seven-day stretch of overnight hospitality.
This winter season FACETS and partners took 302 people out of the cold each night. Thirty-eight of those experiencing homeless then now have places of their own to call home with the help of FACETS case managers and resources that the FACETS folks have worked to find for their clients. The breakfast gathering was the perfect time and place to honor Maria Avila and Norca Calderin who direct the Hypothermia Prevention program.
Before sending the attendees on their way, FACETS Board Chair Don Harris challenged them to “sign the pledge of financial support” available at each table, so that “we can continue to do this work together.”
In Fairfax County, organizations like FACETS have helped reduce the number of homeless by 47 percent between 2008 and 2018, but the goal to end that state is still in the distance. Estimates are that an additional 15,000 affordable housing units will be needed as the county continues to grow, and that’s on top of the current shortage of more than 31,000 units, as reported by Joe Fay.