Join the Movement to End Homelessness and Hunger
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, which also includes National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-22). These events acknowledge and raise awareness of the problems faced by youth, families and individuals at risk of and experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the national housing crisis. Life events such as losing a job or an unexpected health crisis are putting many at risk of eviction, foreclosure and homelessness.
According to the Aspen Institute, following eviction, a person’s likelihood of experiencing homelessness increases, mental and physical health are diminished and the probability of obtaining employment declines. Eviction is also linked with respiratory disease, which could increase the risk of complications if COVID-19 is contracted.
Instability, like eviction, is particularly damaging to children, who suffer in ways that impact their educational development and well-being. Along with losing their home, community, friends and routines as well as their sense of stability and safety, many youth experiencing homelessness are also victims of trauma, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to countless dangers, with an increased likelihood of substance misuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and a vulnerability to being trafficked.
The impact of the pandemic has also increased food insecurity, leaving many forced to choose between basic necessities like purchasing food, paying the rent or going to the doctor. According to the National Institute of Health, of those who lost their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, 31% reported food insecurity and 33% reported eating less due to financial constraints. Food insecurity is associated with worse general health and well-being as well as depression, anxiety, chronic disease and worse developmental outcomes for children.
The City of Alexandria is working to increase public awareness of financial assistance and other resources to prevent evictions and address food insecurity--and you can help. Learn more about the effects of homelessness and hunger and ways we can work together to raise awareness and prevent and end homelessness in our community.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A PERSON EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS
If you see someone who looks in needs of housing supports, you have a couple of options.
- If you have engaged the person in conversation and learn that they are in need of supportive services, let them know they can call 703.746.5700 or walk-in for services through the Homeless Services Assessment Center at 2525 Mount Vernon Ave. during business hours. Staff will support them by identifying the next steps in assisting them with their current situation. During the winter months, advise them of the City's Winter Shelter Program run by Carpenter's Shelter (703.548.7500), which is open daily from 7 p.m. - 7 a.m. through March 2020.
- If you aren’t comfortable engaging in conversion, contact Alex 311 to report your observations. Your report will be sent to the Department of Community and Human Services. Staff will go out and speak to the person as soon as possible and offer available support and resources. DCHS values individual personal choice and does not force services on anyone, but staff work hard to ensure everyone is aware of the supportive services with the City and their right to access them.
HOW THE CITY IS HELPING
Eviction Prevention Assistance and Resources
Eviction Prevention Programs, Resources and Information. Are you or someone you know unable to pay the rent or mortgage? Or received an eviction notice? We can help!
Assistance with Food, Jobs, Healthcare and Other Basic Needs
Food Assistance: Learn about the Grocery Gift Card Program, SNAP, assistance for seniors, food distributions and more.
Basic Needs and Assistance: Including assistance with utility bills, prescriptions and more.
Job Assistance: Including job opportunities, free job skill workshops and more.
Healthcare Information and Resources: Including options for those without insurance or underinsured.
Coping and Wellness Resources
Programs for Those Experiencing Homelessness
- Homeless Services
- Winter Shelter
- David’s Place Day Shelter
- Carpenter’s Shelter
- Alexandria Community Shelter
Raise Awareness on Social Media
- Share awareness posts and content. Follow DCHS on Facebook and Twitter and share posts aimed at raising awareness of the effects of eviction and homelessness and what people can do to help.
One Night Without a Home. Adapt this event, which traditionally involves a group sleeping out in front of a city hall or nearby college campus, to meet the current physical distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Instead, sleep out in your front or back yard and post photos on social media to raise awareness.
SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge. Could you survive on just $4 per day without going hungry? Experience what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Invite others to join you and chronicle your shopping trips and meals on social media. Learn more.
Donate items and services
The National Coalition for the Homeless suggest the following items and services can be donated
Clothing. The lack of clean, well-fitting clothes and shoes causes great hardship beyond exposure to the elements—it hurts one’s self-image and one’s chance to get ahead. People experiencing homelessness must travel light, with few opportunities to safely store or adequately clean what they can’t carry. On job interviews, a poorly dressed person has little chance for success. Give your clean clothes to those who could use them. Before you give your own clothes or start a clothing drive, talk to your local shelter and find out what items they really need. Most have limited storage space, and can’t use winter clothes in summer or vice versa. Some serve only a certain group of people. Please clean the clothes before you donate them.
In-kind services and materials. Service providers may be able to use copying, printing, food, transportation, marketing assistance, computer equipment and assistance, electrical work, building materials, plumbing, etc.
Household goods or other items. Service providers may need items such as kitchen utensils, furniture, books, toys, games, stuffed animals, dolls, diapers, etc.
Books. People experiencing homelessness may have limited access to a library and find that there is little for them to do when spending a night at a shelter. Find out if your local shelter would appreciate donations of books. Consider organizing a book drive to create a small library at the shelter if there is not already one there.
Computers. Many non-profit organizations have a difficult time purchasing expensive but essential equipment such as computers. If you have a machine you no longer need, a local shelter or service provider might greatly appreciate the donation. Shelter guests might also appreciate the donation of machines for their use, although you should check if a shelter would have space to set up public computers.
Homeless “survival kits.” Create and distribute kits that include items such as cups, pots, pans, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and cosmetics. (Try coordinating this through a group that gives out meals.) During cold weather, organize drives for blankets, coats, hats, scarves, mittens, socks and the like.
Phone calls. Help people experiencing homelessness contact loved ones by offering the opportunity to make free long distance calls on holidays. Donate to or organize a cell phone drive for the homeless.
Job opportunities. Encourage your company, school, or place of worship to hire people experiencing homelessness (if they are not already working). Most unemployed homeless adults desperately want to work, but need an employer to give them a chance.
Support for a homeless person or family. As people move out of a shelter or transitional housing program, consider raising money to contribute for a security deposit, or assist by contributing household goods, babysitting, or moral support. See if your local shelter has a partnering program.
Support the SNAP Double Dollars Program
The SNAP Double Dollars Program enables Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers who visit participating Alexandria farmers’ markets to receive up to $20 in double dollars to purchase eligible food products at the markets. This helps vulnerable families stretch their food dollars and access healthier, locally grown foods. Research shows that low-income households participating in the program obtain more nutrients, such as proteins and an array of essential vitamins and minerals, for their home food supply. The initiative also helps increase the customer base at the markets, creating an additional source of revenue for the vendors. Residents wanting more information or interested in donating to the Double Dollars Program can call 703.746.5700 or email email@example.com. Donations are tax deductible and pay for the match incentive, help meet food needs of the community, boost the local economy and improve the lives of local families and farmers.
The Partnership oversees and coordinates the delivery of prevention and homeless services, and the implementation of the Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. Their goals include:
Ensures the planning, coordination and implementation of an effective and efficient system-wide response to homelessness within the City of Alexandria
promotes community-wide planning and commitment to the goal of ending homelessness
Coordinates funding for efforts to rapidly rehouse homeless individuals and families; promotes access to and strategic use of mainstream resources
Optimizes self-sufficiency among persons experiencing homelessness; and analyzes community performance through data collection.
Join the Eviction Prevention Task Force
The Eviction Prevention Task Force is a multi-agency partnership composed of representatives from the Department of Community and Human Services, Office of Housing, Sheriff’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Christ Church and Emergency Financial Providers. The group is collecting and sharing data and working to understand the local eviction landscape, identifying and resolving gaps in eviction prevention services, and engaging stakeholders to address the crisis.
The goals of the Task Force include reducing the number of evictions in Alexandria, diminishing the impact of eviction on residents and developing and implementing a long term eviction prevention strategy that addresses the needs of residents and property owners.
The Task Force welcomes community input, cooperation and participation in ongoing projects and initiatives, including outreach to at-risk households and identifying renters in need of assistance. The group is also seeking input from and collaboration with owners of rental properties. For more information or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event: A Fact Sheet that describes how young children, school-age children, and adolescents react to traumatic events and offers suggestions on how parents and caregivers can help and support them.
National Homeless Youth Awareness Month External Resources: A Fact Sheet that provides external resources related to National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.
Complex Trauma: Facts for Service Providers Working with Homeless Youth and Young Adults: A Fact Sheet that offers information to service providers on how to support teens and young adults who are experiencing homelessness with a trauma history.
Homeless Youth Online Training: An e-Learning Course that provides training and materials for direct care staff working with homeless youth, including staff working in drop-in centers, emergency shelters, transitional living programs, and independent living programs.
Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Families Experiencing Homelessness: An adapted version of Psychological First Aid for those working with families experiencing homelessness.
Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Youth Experiencing Homelessness: An adapted version of Psychological First Aid for those working with youth experiencing homelessness.
Working with Homeless and Runaway Youth: A Webinar that provides statistics on the number and characteristics of homeless youth in the US. This webinar reviews the unique aspects of trauma among runaway and homeless youth and identifies the key treatment implications for this population.
Culture and Trauma Brief: Trauma among Homeless Youth: A Fact Sheet that discusses the challenges traumatized youth face when they are living on the street, including the relationship between trauma and youth homelessness, and offers suggestions for service providers who want to engage these young people in treatment.
Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children: A Fact Sheet that provides background on the issues of trauma among homeless children, including what homelessness looks like in America, the interplay between trauma and homelessness, how programs and services help families exposed to trauma, and providing trauma-specific services.
- National Coalition for the Homelessness