For this episode of Community Conversations, we spoke with Executive Director of Streetlight Community Outreach Ministries Rose Powers and volunteer Joyce Entremont.
Q: Why don’t you give me a brief overview of the organization?
RP: Streetlight Community Outreach Ministries is a 501c3 non-profit organization. We were established here in Woodbridge, way back in 2004. At the time we were an outreach ministry within the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, so we actually started reaching out in the early 1990s to the homeless. So we were established – sorry, I broke my train of thought – but we were established to help the poor and the homeless here in Woodbridge, Virginia. Throughout the years we have been all about feeding the hungry – we have an outreach dinner every Wednesday night to feed homeless adults, people who are living in the woods.
Plus we have permanent supportive housing. We have 27 units currently for homeless adults without children. We target the chronically homeless, sometimes referred to as the ‘literally homeless’ – people actually unsheltered. They can’t get into the local shelters because the capacity is full. And also the local shelters are more oriented to serve families with children.
Q: So you have a project you’re working on called the HOPE Center. So, would you give us a brief overview of the HOPE Center?
RP: The HOPE Center is permanent supportive housing facility, affordable housing that we have envisioned for the chronically homeless population living here in Prince William County. This will be a facility with 52 efficiency-style apartments, and we will have wraparound supportive services for our homeless clients. These will be intensive – we will provide intensive case management services. Very often when people have been living in the woods for a long period of time, they really need additional support, they need a long time to reacclimate to mainstream society. So they just need a myriad of supports – different programs – to meet individual needs.
Q: What is it that your organization need to make this happen?
RP: Well, HOPE Center, we were – Streetlight was just blessed recently. We received a donation of land from All Saints Church. This issue has been very dear to their heart and they have generously offered to provide land for Streetlight to build the HOPE Center facility. Now, we are in the stage one of this project – Phase One, I should say. And what we really need is to raise money for the rezoning costs and the site plan, which is needed in order to apply for a Virginia state tax credits, to receive money to build the center. So, the rezoning and site plan will cost approximately $200,000, and this involves legal fees, it involves environmental studies, a land test, this kind of thing. So it costs quite a lot of money.
Q: So if people are wanting to help with this project to you know, get it going, can they just go to your website to donate? Is there any particular place to actually be able to donate to the HOPE Center?
RP: Yes. They can go to our website. And I mean, really, nothing is too small. I mean, just think, in Prince William County over 450,000 people live in Prince William County. If we only had 1,000 people giving $100, or an average of $100, we would have almost all of the money we need. We already have a little bit of money to go towards this project, but we don’t have enough. So that’s what we’re looking for, those individual donations or perhaps larger donations from corporate sponsors. That would be a real blessing for Streetlight. We would love to get this project underway as quickly as possible because there’s people living out in the woods, they’re dying. There’s – many of the people are medically fragile living in the woods. Many others are disabled. A good 60% are either medically fragile or disabled and they are dying.
Q: So you’re gonna bring somebody in like this. How would this place help them?
JE: To begin with, I think the idea of these individual efficiency apartments doesn’t throw them right out there. You know, it’s not group living, as the norm is around here. They’ll have their own privacy and we’re going to be right there to help them with whatever they need. Be their buddies and help them maneuver, to get back to society. Some of them may live there forever because of medical issues or whatever. We have a guy right now – we had him down at UVA in the hospital. He was in terrible pain, thought he had a hernia – well, he does – but we got him down to UVA because we couldn’t find any specialists around here to help him.
And found out he’s got a serious case of cirrhosis of the liver. And his body keeps producing fluid to the point that it’s very dangerous. And he’s on medications. We had to get him a bathroom scale so that he can weigh himself every day, and he’s keeping a chart so the doctors know how to adjust the medication. But you know, a bathroom scale on the floor of the woods doesn’t measure very well. And if we had HOPE Center we could take him in and he wouldn’t be out there in this weather. So many needs. That’s just one of our guys. Just one.
Q: So you’re looking at some possible – some might be long term. As far as bringing in the homeless, what kind of turnaround would you might see? I know each individual would be different, but do you have any kind of idea of – whether it might be ‘this is a three-month program’? It sounds like it could be a three month, a nine month, a five-year. I mean, how do you think that might work?
RP: Well, permanent supportive housing is long term. So, the average is three to five years. That’s what we’ve seen in our scattered site housing. The reason why we want to build HOPE Center and have it all under one roof, is because a lot of clients just, they cannot cope in an unmonitored scattered site housing situation. At HOPE Center we will also have a nurses station right on-site for those that are medically fragile. We’ll have a recovery program right on-site for those who have alcohol or drug addiction issue. We will have 24/7 security, so everybody who lives there will feel safe. It will be a safe place where they can live and begin to rebuild their lives.
There will be a few, a handful of people, that may have to live there for the rest of their lives, just because of the nature of their disability or the fact that they are so medically fragile.
Q: So you talked about corporate sponsorships. How can they actually help with that?
RP: Well, we do need more corporate sponsors. This is a community-wide effort. We need community support and the corporations can help a great deal with the larger donations for special projects. Such as with the rezoning – we have the various tests that need to be done – and each of them are very expensive. So, for an environmental study – this can be over $10,000 to $15,000 easily. So this is where it really helps to have those corporate sponsors who can give a little bit extra, if they can step forward and donate toward this project.
Check back for the next episode of Community Conversations.