Volunteers Bring Care And Hope In Trying Economic Times

Posted on June 28, 2011

This blog was written by VSH’s summer PR intern, James Denison.

In the last few years, America’s economic recession has put the squeeze on everyone. However, for homeless shelters and housing services, the recession has been a double-edged sword. With more people out of work and a drop in federal and corporate funding, many non-profit services are struggling to stay afloat.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment percentage is 9%. 6% of Virginians are out of a job, as compared to less than 4% in 2008. Since the recession, the Virginia General Assembly has cut its health and human services funding by $360 million. And according to the Giving USA Foundation, national charitable giving fell by 6% in 2008, which was the first drop in giving in more than 20 years. Put these facts together, and you can easily see why many soup kitchens and homeless shelters are facing hard choices. As Chuck Bean, executive director of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, says, “A downturn in funding accompanied by a surge in demand means a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job-training program is going to feel it first. Then you get into the tough decisions: Do you thin the soup, or shorten the line?”

Numerous homeless shelters and soup kitchens have been forced to shut down because they couldn’t cover their costs, leaving impoverished people out of aid. Some shelters have begun charging residents to stay there in an attempt to save money and remain in operation. Yet even in these unsteady financial times, many communities have rallied around their local non-profits. In Danville, Virginia, after the House of Hope, which had been in operation for 15 years, closed due to a lack of funding, city citizens held a drive to raise money. After an anonymous donor gave $20,000, residents reached into their hearts and wallets and doled out $23,000 to more than match it. Now the House of Hope and its 20 beds is open again to serve homeless folks in Danville.

For more than 20 years, Virginia Supportive Housing has cared for the most underprivileged individuals in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas. We’ve worked to provide housing and support services to folks dealing with chronic homelessness, substance abuse problems, and mental illness. But we need your help to keep doing it! Whether you donate resources or take a weekend to help move a client into his new apartment, you are giving specific care and attention where it may never have been felt before. You are saying to a formerly forgotten person, ‘I’m investing in you because I see the person you can be, not who you are now. Your life has value to me.’

To learn how you can donate to VSH, click here. To learn about volunteer opportunities at VSH, click here. To learn about our upcoming project 1000 Homes for 1000 Virginians and how you can get involved, click here.

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