In Fairfax County, permanent supportive housing has been a key component since day one in our efforts to reduce and end homelessness. In the spring of last year, our Continuum of Care (COC) received $1.2 million in grant funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless individuals in Fairfax County. At the time, it was the largest grant awarded by HUD in the state of Virginia, and one of only 25 such grants across the country. With this additional funding, Pathway Homes, the largest provider of permanent supportive housing in our COC, set out to move an additional 55 men and women out of the woods and off the streets, into their very own homes.
As of July 7th, Pathways has moved 51 new individuals from chronic homelessness into housing, and the last four are in the process of being housed as a result of this HUD award. While each individual has a unique story to tell, they all share some common life experiences; among them are histories of trauma, serious medical conditions, financial instability, and often, self-medication leading to substance abuse. Nevertheless, when given the safety and security of a stable home, we see how their inner strength and resilience guide them to put their lives back on track.
“Brian” is one such example. Now in his mid 50’s, Brian left an abusive home as a teenager. A musician, Brian played his instrument for tips in order to eke out a meager income while dealing with unending physical pain, a constant reminder of the auto accident he survived ten years ago. At night, he would return to his encampment in the woods where the two cats he adopted off the street provided a modicum of companionship. Brian had been literally homeless for nearly four years.
Now Brian and his cats, which have been classified as service animals, have moved into their own one-bedroom apartment. Instead of the makeshift solar oven he engineered in the woods, Brian has his own kitchen. Instead of the cold, hard ground, Brian is sleeping in his own bed. Already he has been connected to other available government and community services. These days, Brian is working on his job readiness skills with the hope that one day soon he will be able to return to the workforce. These are the first small but important steps on the path to recovery.
At Pathway Homes, we remain committed to the goal to end homelessness in our community. The ability to continue development of permanent supportive housing will be an important part of the efforts to achieve that goal. Pathway Homes continues to play a critical role, not only in these endeavors, but most importantly, in helping individuals with serious mental illnesses and other co-occurring disorders to live to their full potential.
Sylisa Lambert-Woodard, EdD, LCSW, LSATP, MAC
President and CEO