(May 1, 2017) Catherine Read speaks with Homestretch Executive Director Christopher Fay. This non-profit provides transitional housing for families with children in Fairfax County. Founded in 1990, they have 50 homes distributed throughout the county and they support families for two years with safe housing and additional support services. They offer assistance in helping families to pay down debt, repair their credit history, pursue additional education and certifications, and to find jobs with a career path. They also offer English as a second language classes.
Over 50% of the Homestretch families are women with children who are victims of domestic violence. Some have been victims of human trafficking, and some are refugees from countries where the U.S. has had a military presence – Afghanistan, Iraq and the Sudan. Some families are there because of the death of a loved one, a medical crisis or prolonged unemployment. Everyone there has children, and all have suffered some type of trauma in their lives.
The shocking reality about homelessness in the United States is that the average age of a homeless person is 9 years old. Sixty percent of the homeless population in this country are families. Homestretch clients come from area shelters where they have been given temporary shelter.
Support services include Kidstretch, which serves the children of Homestretch and is also open to the public. They partner with Fairfax County Early Literacy Services and provide access to cultural enrichment activities, structured play and field trips.
Teenstretch supports middle school and high school students in Homestretch with programs focused on Social/Emotional Development, Academic Support, Healthy Living, Life Skills and Community Service.
Christopher Fay shared stories of some of the families who have come to Homestretch under the most dire of circumstances. Because they support families longer than most taxpayer programs provide for, Homestretch raises 95% of their operating funds themselves. In addition to their many fundraising activities, they have long term corporate partnerships with area companies like Excella Consulting, Integrity Management Consulting, Butz Wilbern, The JBG Companies, Mayer-Brown, ReedSmith LLP and many others. Beyond monetary and in-kind donations, these companies have employees who are actively engaged in providing support and services directly to Homestretch families.Faith communities like Dulin United Methodist Church also provide support and volunteers. In addition to a staff of 20, there are 300 to 400 volunteers providing everything from mentoring adults and providing meals to dental services and moving services.
Homestretch is unique in following up with their families to determine how successfully they have maintained self-sufficiency years after leaving the program. George Mason did one such study and George Washington University did two. Those results showed 95% of their program participants were still living independently and are successfully integrated into their communities.
There are many ways to support Homestretch. Cash donations are gratefully accepted, donations of furniture and furnishings for new families (families take their furniture with them when they move on), painting and landscaping, providing meals and snacks for classes and providing transportation to classes in Falls Church for Homestretch families. Often there are collection drives for things like welcome baskets, mattresses, Easter baskets, diapers, etc.