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Volunteers Make Homelessness History

April 13, 2016

Volunteers Make Homelessness History

by Alison Jones-Nassar, Volunteer Resources Manager

This week as Virginia Supportive Housing celebrates National Volunteer Week, I reflect with gratitude on the impact volunteers make on our organization and in the lives of those we serve.

The collective contributions of volunteers are inspiring. In the last five years, 5,513 volunteers supported our mission to end homelessness with gifts of time, skills and compassion. Volunteers provided nearly 47,800 hours of service, which translates to an extraordinary $987,000 in value.

These numbers only capture part of the picture. VSH’s volunteer workforce supports all aspects of our mission and extends our ability to deliver critical services to vulnerable individuals. Volunteers help improve the quality of life for the residents, whether by enhancing and maintain the properties in which they live, or by providing direct services and activities to our residents.

Property Champions

VSH’s portfolio of apartments for formerly homeless individuals includes 535 units in 16 properties that we own and operate. Volunteers greatly expand the capacity of our maintenance team, thanks to thousands of hours that they dedicate to VSH.

As a result, VSH properties look more attractive, clean and inviting – like “home” should be. Volunteers construct fences, repair porches, spread mulch, paint apartments, repair appliances, plant flowers, clean gutters, move furniture, scrub sinks, cut grass, build raised garden boxes, rake leaves, assemble furniture and paint parking lot lines, among many other tasks. The work is not glamorous, but our volunteers unfailingly arrive with team spirit and can-do attitudes to make it seem like fun.

Direct Service Providers

Through VSH’s orientation and training, volunteers gain an understanding of the variety of physical and mental conditions that affect many of our residents as a result of having living unsheltered for years. Volunteers also learn about residents extremely limited incomes (less than $10,000/year) that can affect food security and social inclusion. Many of our residents are also disconnected from family, thus reducing their exposure to holiday celebrations and traditions.

Volunteers have answered the call to help improve the quality of life for our residents in a big way. Direct services that volunteers provide include hosting birthday parties, cutting hair, preparing dinners, decorating for holiday celebrations, teaching computer skills, conducting art classes, leading Bingo, teaching financial literacy, providing assistance with job-hunting, promoting wellness, performing song and dance routines, conducting Bible studies, organizing Wii fitness sessions, teaching bike safety and delivering food baskets.

Special event volunteers support myriad fundraising efforts while administrative support volunteers and interns support our administrative staff.

Without the contributions of volunteers across all departments and programs, we would not be able to accomplish the important work that we do each day to end homelessness. Volunteers are truly the KEY to success!

National Volunteer Week provides not only a great opportunity reflect, but to plan as well. This year VSH will become certified as a Service Enterprise, which means that our capacity to engage volunteers strategically, to onboard them effectively and to steward them as life-long supporters will be better than ever. We are committed to strengthening our current practices while striving for a new level of excellence in volunteer engagement.

On behalf of Virginia Supportive Housing’s staff, Board of Directors and residents, I extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all volunteers. Your dedication and service are priceless. Here’s to volunteers and the bright futures they continue to build!

 

 

 

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VSH Recognized for Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness

January 29, 2016

Virginia Supportive Housing was recognized for its efforts to house homeless Veterans at the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the 2016 General Assembly in Richmond on January 13th. Anthony Harris, a veteran himself, who supervises the Veterans’ Supportive Services program in Hampton Roads was in attendance to represent VSH. Click here for the full story.

 

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Annual Report Now Available

December 16, 2015

Our latest annual report reflects the many ways in which collaborative effort between our staff, volunteers, donors and supporters opens new doors for formerly homeless individuals.  To view the PDF, click here.

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Governor McAuliffe Announces Functional End to Veteran Homelessness

November 12, 2015

At a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared that Virginia is the First State in the Nation to Functionally End Veteran Homelessness. Virginia Supportive Housing specialized case managers on our Supportive Services for Veterans and their Families (SSVF) team have been integral to the Commonwealth’s efforts to end veteran homelessness. In 2013 – 2014 we served 684 veterans and their families in 21 counties and municipalities.

VSH is also the largest and longest-running SSVF housing services provider in the Commonwealth under a contract with the V.A. Functionally ending Veteran Homelessness is a first step in our greater mission of ending homelessness in Virginia. It does not mean that Veterans will not experience homelessness; rather it means we have a community system to respond to the crisis and minimize the duration and repetition of a person’s experience in homelessness. While achieving functional zero is a magnificent accomplishment, the governor said, “We’re not finished. This is not a one-time effort.”

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A Day in the VSH Life

October 2, 2015

Meet Celie Weaver, MSW, Case Manager and Outreach Worker, Supportive Services for Veteran Families

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is dedicated to eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, and Celie Weaver is on the front lines of that battle right here in Richmond. In fact, during the 100 Day Challenge Celie assisted 30 of the 97 veterans that were housed! Since 2012, Celie has worked as part of VSH’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) team, the largest and longest-running SSVF program in Virginia. SSVF provides a short term intense period of case management to link individuals and families to benefits and may provide temporary financial assistance to help with the cost of achieving housing stability for veterans. Through this program, we provide rapid re-housing services for veterans experiencing homelessness and we help veterans who are at risk of losing their housing to remain stably housed. We sat down with Celie to learn more about her work.

As an outreach worker, I go out with the Richmond Outreach Consortium to find and engage with individuals that are sleeping outside. As the SSVF outreach staff, I help the homeless veterans that we find get linked to the most appropriate housing and services resources in the community.

When I meet with veterans we complete an intake for VSH’s SSVF program and assess their case management needs. Once I identify barriers to housing and daily living skill needs, I assist with reducing those barriers by helping individual veterans secure identification, food stamps, veteran benefits and other things that they might previously not have had access to.

I am passionate about my working relationship with clients. With a great amount of perseverance, most veterans are housed very shortly after meeting with me. I get great satisfaction from hearing about how much they appreciate what we were able to accomplish together. And, many of them pass my business card on to others which helps me end homelessness for more veterans!

There are two aspects of my job that I personally feel are the greatest moments, and what makes it all worth it every day:

  1. I work with a lot of veterans on getting VA benefits and pensions. The look I see on their faces when I tell them we’ve successfully secured benefits is priceless.
  2. Move-in day. VSH is able to provide each new resident with a mattress, bedspring and rails. The bed, as well as an array of donations from the community, are delivered on move-in day. A residents’ new house becomes home right from the get-go. Once they see that so many individuals in the community care and want to donate items they become overwhelmed, for many it’s the first time in a while they are able to feel special and loved. Moving someone into their own apartment is indescribable and amazing. It is hard to put into words what goes on those days. It just goes to show with a little hard work that we are able to house the most vulnerable and end homelessness.

In 2014, VSH provided rapid access to housing and housing focused case management to 594 individuals in veteran families, 97% of whom have not returned to homelessness. I am proud to be a part of the team that will help Richmond reach the goal of ending veteran homelessness by December 2015!

Celie

 

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