Local homeless shelters address overlooked issue

For the past few years, Fairfax County has fell under the top five wealthiest counties in the United States. This reputation indirectly places the county on an imaginary pedestal with an ominous idea that every resident has a well paying job, students must be attending top schools and signs of economic struggle are practically nonexistent.

However, that is not the case.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60,000 people live under the poverty line in Fairfax County. This number may seem relatively small as compared to the total population of about 1 million, which often causes those 60,000 lives to be overlooked.

“Pack a bag with a set of clothes, underwear, a good pair of walking shoes and just leave your house for a week. Just keep walking. Then imagine sleeping outside. That’s just a glimpse into our lives,” said Joseph. (Last names not used for privacy.)

The unemployment rate in Fairfax County is 5.5 percent, which still falls under the national rate of 7.3 percent. This low rate of unemployment is a result of the fact that many families are employed in Washington D.C, which was mildly affected by the economic crisis of 2008.

For Gregory however, his fate fell under the 5.5 percent umbrella. Following a divorce, Gregory underwent a number of surgeries that caused him to consistently take off from work. The company that he worked for asked him to leave them for disability retirement. He went from making a six-figure salary for 27 years, to simply receiving a check for his disabilities every month, he said.

Gregory moved into his mother’s home with his siblings after he lost his job. This past February, the house was destroyed in a fire. Due to domestic violence and alcoholism, Gregory chose to break away and live a life on his own.

After living in shelters for a few months, along with trying to find a job, he stumbled across The Lamb Shelter. Here he was able to receive support from a welcoming staff, and be connected back to job opportunities.

“Today however, by the will of God I started a new career with a new organization that hires people with disabilities. I have prosthetic! I had a cut on my foot that got infected. They took off my toes in 2006, I walked on it for five years, and then my ankle collapsed. But it’s okay, I’m alive and that’s what matters,” said Gregory.

Gregory is one of many people who have been successful through the help of the shelter. The assistant director, Patti Brown, explains another encounter with a young lady who came to the shelter for refuge and support.

The day the young lady came to the shelter was the same day the young lady had decided to take her own life. “You could tell that no one was home behind her eyes, and that she just seemed lost,” said Brown.

After her first visit to the shelter, the young lady often returned. She began to attend the bible studies, and counseling sessions with the two caseworkers at the shelter. Eventually, the young lady was able to find a job as an assistant preschool teacher. She would often come back to tell Brown that she would sleep with her badge on because of how proud she was of her job.

“The amazing thing is that she was in here the other day, conversing with the other individuals at the shelter while prepping some arts and crafts projects for her preschool class. It’s nice to see how she has positively circled back around,” said Brown.

People often seek out ways to make a difference on a topic they feel strongly about. Volunteers at The Lamb Shelter are examples of a group of people who are making a difference in many peoples lives.

“Sometimes people want to help, but do not know how to help. However, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make someone’s day,” said Brown.