Day 2 of Surveying [in Philly] and Two Words: Blown Away

Posted on May 18, 2011

This past weekend staff from Virginia Supportive Housing and Homeward took part in the 100,000 Homes Registry Week Boot Camp in Philadelphia. On Saturday and Sunday staff learned how to implement to 100,000 Homes Model  in Richmond. Part of that model is a Registry Week where the community administers health surveys to people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers, including Boot Camp attendees, went out at 4am three days in a row to canvas the streets of Philly to find and survey homeless individuals and families. It was an amazing experience. The blog below is after the second day of Registry Week. Please stay tuned for more information on Richmond’s Registry Week (August 1 through 5th) and how to get involved.

This is a guest post by the 100K Homes Philly Campaign. This blog post was originally posted on 100K Homes Philly blog. Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 07:50PM

It was cold, rainy and just messy on our streets this morning, which means most people want to stay in their nice warm safe beds as long as possible. Thankfully, the 100KHomes Philly teams rose at 2 and 3 am to hit the streets of Philly and see who among us did not have a warm and safe place to be. 

Teams were deployed to Horizon House’s Navigation Center, where over 50 people slept on a floor in Mantua to stay out of the rain. We attempted to survey everyone and most agreed. Teams went again to the SEPTA [subway] concourse and now most folks knew we were coming and organized themselves into a line to do the survey. Teams that had walked the streets and found no one had learned to check under the bridges and I-95 and found 4, 5 or 6 people today where yesterday, they had seen none.   The same teams want to go back again tomorrow, because they are learning, you just have to keep looking. People are there.

Perhaps most exciting, the NEAT team (also known as Team 3) engaged a person on Monday, who had every vulnerability criteria that the folks from 100K Homes national taught us about on Sunday.  Long time on the streets, alcoholism, serious mental illness and chronic health conditions, over 60 years of age, long physical health hospital admissions and ER visits. We had to act.  So the NEAT team went and engaged him again today with his case manager of 10+ years  from PATH and staff from Pathways to Housing PA, who have housing PLUS services to offer him.  We hope we can have him housed by Friday and will keep you posted. 

KYW stopped by and did some interviews at 315 S Broad St and went out with a team. Check out their interview at

This job would be impossible without the dedication and skill of our volunteers. Please don’t lose steam now; we’ve got one more big day and dozens of more people to reach! To date, we have 377 unduplicated interviews. Even for teams that haven’t completed lots of interviews, you are giving us a better idea of where homeless people stay (and where they don’t), which is absolutely invaluable information that will have service and policy implications. Kudos to all who are supporting us.

A warm loving shout out to Project Home and Bethesda Project, that had their opening for Connelly House today.  79 formerly homeless men and women now have a warm, safe place and a community downtown, thanks to the efforts of these two tireless agencies.

Stay dry, stay safe, stay warm, till you come join us again tomorrow.  And even when this event ends, we are not done.  Stay connected to the site for updates on events or how you can support the efforts. Follow us on Twitter at @100KhomesPhilly or like our Facebook page at 100K Homes Philly.

See you tomorrow. It’s supposed to be wet, so be prepared.

South Bay Story of Hope

Posted on December 14, 2010

December’s Story of Hope comes out of VSH’s newest supportive housing development, South Bay in Portsmouth. To read a recent article published in the Virginia Pilot about this new complex, click here.

Lisa White had worked most of her adult life. As a nursing assistant she had a steady employment history including more than 5 years at Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, VA.

 In 1998, Lisa decided to enlist in the military as a Merchant Seaman.  Over the next five years, her travels took her to various places around the world including Italy, Dubai and Bahrain.  In 2000, she became a first time homeowner.  Life was good.

It was on one of her deployments to Dubai in 2004 when became ill.  She was sent stateside and for the next 4 months underwent various tests to determine the cause of her illness.  It was then that Lisa learned at the age of 39 that she had with colon cancer.

 Since receiving her diagnosis, Lisa has had five surgeries, chemotherapy treatments and dozens of return trips to the hospital for follow-up care and pain management.  “There have been times when I was so weak that I couldn’t stand up and nurses had to come to my home,” said White.

 As a result of her illness, Lisa has been unable to work and her only source of income is a disability pension of approximately $800 a month.  In June of 2010 she lost her home because she could no longer make the payments and still pay for her health insurance and medicines and buy food.

Lisa spent the next year and a half homeless and either sleeping in her car or at a temporary shelter for a few nights at a time.  “I was constantly moving around taking one day at a time.  Not only was I homeless, I was really sick and had a very weak immune system,” commented White. Recently, doctors  advised Lisa that her kidneys are starting to fail and that she will likely require dialysis treatments.

Fortunately she was accepted as one of the first resident to move into permanent housing at South Bay Supportive Apartments in early November. “I feel like I have had a heavy load lifted off of my shoulders.  I don’t have to worry anymore.  I am finally able to be content,” she said.

VSH Breaks Ground For New Studios At South Richmond!

Posted on December 7, 2010

The morning of Tuesday, December 7 was bitterly cold – perfect weather to celebrate the ground-breaking for a new construction project that, when completed, will get 21 chronically homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent housing! Virginia Supportive Housing was very proud to have The Honorable Dwight Jones, Mayor of the City of Richmond, and many other esteemed guests present at this ground-breaking event, which highlighted the collaborative efforts of the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County to eliminate homelessness in Central Virginia.

In addition to Mayor Jones, VSH Executive Director Alice Tousignant proudly welcomed a number of other guest speakers including: Jay Stegmaier, Chesterfield County Administrator; Mark Strickler, Director of Henrico County Community Revitalization; Ronnie Legette, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Richmond CPD Field Office Director; Jim Chandler, Director of Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program with the Virginia Housing Development Authority; Willie Fobbs, Associate Director of Affordable Housing Production and Preservation with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; Graham Driver, Director of New Market Tax Credits & Project Development Advisor with Virginia Community Development Corporation; and Karl Bren, President of Green Visions Consulting and Founding Board Member of Virginia Supportive Housing.

South Richmond Apartments, which opened in 1996, currently provides permanent supportive housing for 39 very low-income formerly homeless individuals, many of whom have disabilities. The addition of 21 new units will bring the total to 6o units. Construction will add 13,856 square feet to the existing apartment complex. Eleven of the 21 units will be disability-accessible. In addition, The Studios at South Richmond will be EarthCraft Virginia-certified for green building and energy efficiency, and will incorporate a photovoltaic solar energy system designed to reduce the building’s energy load by 20%.

To view the photos of this exciting event, just click here!

Giving Thanks in the Season of Hope

Posted on November 2, 2010

Photo of Alice Tousignant, VSH's Executive Director

Alice Tousignant is the Executive Director of Virginia Supportive Housing. She holds a Masters degree in Social Work Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Rhode Island. Alice has over 30 years of experience in the fields of housing, homelessness and social services. She is a founder and past President of Emergency Shelter, Inc. and past President of the Richmond Community Development Alliance. Alice is currently the Board Chair of the Virginia Collation to End Homelessness.

During this Season of Thanksgiving, it’s important to stop for a moment and take the time to evaluate what is truly important to us. Messages of hope, optimism, and giving are flowing through the chilly breeze as we recognize the significance of simple gifts such as family and friends, food and housing.

Here at Virginia Supportive Housing, we would like to express deep thanks to all of our wonderful supporters throughout the community who have helped to make this organization a success.  How do we measure that success? By fulfilling our mission to provide permanent housing for more than 1300 individuals through our residences and programs, and by offering supportive services to ensure that more than 90 percent of our clients don’t return to homelessness.

While we have successfully transformed the lives of many individuals and families over the past two decades, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go to ensuring that everyone has access to that most basic of human needs: housing. Homelessness is an issue that affects all of us, and together we can end it. is an exciting NEW online tool designed to make charitable giving more accessible and convenient, and as a registered 501(c)3, Virginia Supportive Housing is pleased to participate in this initiative. This season, options for contributing your efforts to ending homelessness within the Commonwealth of Virginia are more plentiful than ever.

Consider participating in Give Richmond’s Giving Card program.  Instead of populating your wish list with bathrobes and socks, you can request Giving Cards. These cards come in a variety of denominations and can be redeemed at By designating Virginia Supportive Housing as your organization of choice, you give the gift of housing to someone who is homeless and demonstrate the true meaning of the Giving Season. You can also use Giving Cards as stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. There’s never been an easier way to show your support for Virginia Supportive Housing.

What are some other ways that you can support the work of VSH?

As 2010 comes to a close, VSH would like to acknowledge all of its supporters with deepest appreciation. With your help, we will continue to provide proven permanent solutions to homelessness, bringing our region closer each day toward its goal to end homelessness. It’s a mission we can’t fulfill without you – thank you!

Stories Of Struggle, Endings Of Hope

Posted on August 31, 2010

I have asked Alison Jones-Nassar, VSH’s volunteer program coordinator, to write this week’s blog. Thanks, Alice

Reading an article in this weekend’s Daily Press reminded me of the response I always get whenever I tell someone I work with Virginia Supportive Housing. The circumstances may differ and the details might change slightly, but it’s always a variation on the same theme.

The article, entitled “Mom, Family Escape Homelessness,” describes the efforts of a young Newport News woman, Suzanne Richardson, to overcome a mountain of obstacles in order to avoid a housing crisis and maintain a safe home for her mother, brother, and two young children, Anais (5) and Jamere (1).

Some of the obstacles Suzanne has encountered are the results of mistakes made, starting with her own decision to drop out of high school and her first pregnancy as a teenager. Others are through no fault of her own. Her mother is on disability. The home they were renting went into foreclosure.

Despite some bad judgments, Suzanne has made every attempt to rectify her mistakes for the sake of her family by following the rules. She achieved her GED, went back to college to become a certified massage therapist, and graduated with honors. She found a job and received high recommendations from her supervisor and co-workers.

But in the face of foreclosure, her minimum-wage job could not cover the cost of the security deposit and first month’s rent for a new place. She didn’t have enough money to pay the electricity bills or put food on the table. And then her car broke down.

Combined, the obstacles Suzanne has faced would be enough to overwhelm anyone – and yet she keeps persevering. “I just thought, ‘I’ve got to keep moving. I’ve got to try my best.” She has jumped through all the required hoops, working hard and never asking for favors or special treatment. But somehow, it’s never quite enough.

Whenever I tell someone I work with VSH, this is the story I hear again and again. A brother, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor, someone from the congregation. A lost job, an abusive parent, a divorce, a car breakdown, a medical emergency, an emotional crisis. There are so many stories out there, so many people who are struggling so hard. Some of them, like Suzanne, are barely managing to hold on by the skin of their teeth. Many others are not.

I often wonder how I would cope in a situation like that. If I was in Suzanne’s place, would I have the resilience to keep going? To keep following the rules? To smile for my kids and believe in a happy ending? My work with Virginia Supportive Housing allows me to be a part of an organization that makes a real difference in the lives of people like Suzanne. By getting the community involved in what we do, I help to increase awareness of all those stories out there and mobilize the resources required to help. The good news is that VSH makes happy endings possible. Are you ready to find out more about how you can give someone’s story a happy ending?

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