Happy Holidays From Virginia Supportive Housing!

Posted on December 21, 2010

This week’s blog was written by VSH’s Executive Director, Alice Tousignant.

I must be getting old because I’m not as stressed out as I usually am at this time of year.  It’s mid-December, the holiday craziness is in full swing, and there’s lots going on personally. It’s also the end of VSH’s fiscal year and the entire office is in an uproar, trying to wrap up reconciliations for our 2010 budget and finalize the budget for 2011. Yet, I’m still smiling and calm. Am I just completely out of touch or is this feeling really justified?

You decide.

Over the summer, we had the opportunity to transition 13 individuals out of South Richmond and into private housing in the community. One of these individuals, Joe Brightful, had been living at South Richmond for 14 years and is now feeling pretty happy. Once these folks had successfully moved on, we could then make their apartments available to 13 new clients who otherwise would be on the streets and in shelters.

We also had a groundbreaking at South Richmond to launch construction on 21 additional apartments that will be completed sometime next year, helping to reduce homelessness in the region. This is our first regional effort here in Central Virginia and we are extremely excited by the collaboration between Richmond City, Henrico and Chesterfield County to make this effort a success.

We have a brand new volunteer program which has given us 553 new friends who have performed 7421 hours of service helping us with a multitude of projects, saving us time and money in addition to spreading the word about VSH. You can see many pictures of these volunteers in action on our Facebook page and find out more by contacting our volunteer program coordinator at 804-836-1061 or [email protected].

We completed a 20-month evaluation of A Place to Start (APTS), demonstrating the incredible success of this program through two important measures: retention rate (98% for the first 50 people who enrolled in the program) and savings to the community (over $300,000 in hospital and incarceration costs alone)! In addition, we were able to enroll six new clients this year, one of whom had been homeless for over 10 years and in and out of psychiatric units many times.

We opened our third regional supportive studio apartment building in the South Hampton Roads area in late November. 33 people have already moved into South Bay, many of whom had been living on the streets and in shelters for a long time. Our property management staff services staff worked night and day to locate them and get them processed to move in. One staff member remarked “I’ve never seen people who had so few possessions.” Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and congregations, we were able to make sure that everyone had what they needed to feel “at home” in their new home.

I attended the holiday party for our clients in Richmond a couple of weeks ago, and lots of people showed up for great food and karaoke.  It gave me an opportunity to sit and talk with folks who are being housed and served by VSH, and it was very comfortable and normal. We didn’t talk about where they had been but about how they are doing now, and most are doing pretty well. With stable housing, they can focus on taking care of their health issues or getting their GEDs. They’re not homeless anymore. Many people simply told me, “Thank you.”

So, that’s why I’m still smiling.

I want to express my thanks to our amazing staff who perform miracles every day.  I also am deeply appreciative to our wonderful board, whose support and engagement are helping us grow to the next level. And finally, thank you to all of our friends and supporters in the community who help make this all possible. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

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.

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