New organization seeks to help homeless families with children | Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — By next summer, a new local non-profit organization aims to help homeless families with children find stable housing and improve their situation in life.

Family Promise Northern Shenandoah Valley (FPNSV) wants to provide assistance to “any combination of parent and child” – one or more parents in a household with one or more children, said Sandi Webster, acting chair of its leadership team. .

Plans are to provide them with “short-term transitional housing” if needed, Webster said. Otherwise, they may be able to receive other types of help, such as help finding affordable housing, paying rent and improving their financial skills, she said.

Market Street United Methodist Church is the FPNSV’s “local ministry center”. At 6.30pm on Wednesday, the organization will hold an “open house” meeting at the church, on the corner of Cameron and Cork streets in downtown Winchester, to raise awareness that it has been established, outline its plans and hopefully get support from other churches, organizations and individuals.

“We want people to be excited about the possibilities” for the FPNSV to help homeless families, Webster said. “We have a long way to go” to start, she said, “but we hope someone is out there who wants to get involved in a project” in which they can make a valuable contribution.

Many people don’t realize how many homeless families there are locally, she believes.

In Winchester Public Schools, 94 students from kindergarten to grade 12 have been identified as lacking stable housing. Reasons include financial problems, evictions, and domestic violence situations. Seven of the students live or have resided in homeless shelters, 39 in motels and 45 in “split situations,” such as families living with other families, according to statistics provided by the school division to Family. Promise.

Currently, 137 Frederick County public school students have been identified as homeless, division figures reveal.

School division officials who work with homeless students could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Winchester/Frederick County is in an affordable housing crisis, Webster said. She described affordable housing as when “someone doesn’t have to pay more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities”.

“It’s very hard to find” locally, she says.

Asked what the rental housing providers she’s spoken to think about the situation, Webster said “some of them understand the crisis” and are trying to keep rents as low as possible while ” others do not”.

She mentioned situations in which local landlords sold their properties to “people on the other side of the mountain” in Loudoun County and elsewhere in wealthy Northern Virginia. New landlords have been renovating properties and either driving out tenants during the works or raising their rents dramatically to recoup the expenses.

“It’s a vicious world out there (dealing) with landlords,” Webster said, “especially for people who are really, really struggling” financially.

Founded in 1988, Family Promise has more than 200 affiliates nationwide. The closest to Winchester that is already operational is based in Woodstock in Shenandoah County.

An article in The Winchester Star in June detailed the interest of Market Street United Methodist Church in establishing a local chapter of Family Promise. The effort received a major boost when the Internal Revenue Service transferred Winchester Together’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit charitable organization status to FPNSV. Winchester Together was a similar effort that Webster says didn’t work out after its leader walked away from the area.

As part of Family Promise, the church is seeking to renovate some of its unused space into “efficiency-type apartments” where homeless families with children can stay for indefinite periods until they are able to move on. firmly on its feet, said Pastor Keiko Foster. .

How long has yet to be determined.

“Every family (situation) is different,” noted Webster, who is also director of community management for Faithworks Inc., a local nonprofit, faith-based housing development organization.

“Having them here” at the church, she said, “would cost less than paying them a hotel room.”

Foster also envisions the church developing a “community center” space where FPNSV clients could, for example, socialize, learn new skills, and/or fill out job applications.

Many volunteer opportunities with the FPNSV are possible, she said with Webster, ranging from helping to renovate the space inside the church to preparing and serving meals for the families staying there.

Webster said the organization hopes to begin serving families by the next school year. But if enough resources can be obtained, he might be able to start serving them sooner.

Aubrey L. Morgan