“It never rains on the Help the Homeless Walk.” It’s been the truth for the past 15 years, and proved to be true again this year. More than 270 people gathered at Stevenson Place on Saturday, October 24th to take part in Pathways’ 16th annual Help the Homeless Walk.
More than 70 volunteers arrived on site early to help set up for the event. Many of them also registered and participated in the walk, while others worked to prepare welcome kits for new Pathways residents, collect donated household items that were brought to the walk site, or staffed the refreshment table. Other volunteers were stationed along the walk route to cheer for and encourage the walkers to finish the one mile course. This year marked the second year that Volunteer Fairfax has partnered with Pathway Homes on the Help the Homeless Walk, linking our event to individuals and groups looking to give back to the community.
Pathways President and CEO Sylisa Lambert-Woodard welcomed the crowd, and served as the master of ceremonies for the opening ceremonies. “We greatly appreciate your participation today as the need is great,” said Lambert-Woodard. “In a national survey of the number of homeless in our nation, it was reported that on a single night in January, 578,424 people were homeless. Over a third of the nation’s homeless suffer from some form of severe mental illness compared with only six percent of the general population. Serious mental illness frequently disrupts individuals’ ability to carry out daily tasks and hinders individuals’ ability to form and maintain stable relationships. As a result, these factors and the stresses of living with a mental disorder, frequently lead to homelessness.”
Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook spoke of the county’s commitment to end homelessness, and specifically of a new program to help law enforcement redirect adults with mental illness to available treatment options, this keeping this vulnerable population from being incarcerated. Dean Klein, director of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness also spoke of the county’s ability to bring resources together to reduce homelessness. Klein spoke of the county’s ability to qualify for and receive more than $1 million in bonus program grant funding from HUD to place 55 chronically homeless individuals in permanent housing. Pathway Homes board chair Dan Gray recognized the hard work of the volunteers, and the generous support of the sponsors, who make the Help the Homeless Walk a success.
But the most moving speech was given by one of the individuals Pathway Homes has the privilege of serving. Cindy Scott, who has been with Pathways for 17 years, told her story publically for the very first time. In her remarks, she credited the stable housing, and her faith in God, with helping her get where she is today. “This housing greatly contributed to improvement of my health and overall well- being,” said Scott. “I could feel safe again and have my independence and privacy back. Because of the stable housing, I was finally able to focus on addressing the issues that contributed to my previous homelessness. I got the help and support I needed, and felt hopeful that I can live a good life.”
Then it was off to the starting line, and the walk was underway. More than $22,000 was raised to support Pathways mission of making available to individuals with mental illness and co-occurring disabilities a variety of non-time-limited housing and services to enable them to realize their individual potential.