In 2015, Fairfax County, Virginia police received an average of more than eight domestic violence calls for service each day. In many cases, the victim ultimately refuses to press charges or leave their abuser because they have nowhere to turn.
Because no one should have to choose between homelessness and abuse, Christian Relief Services, based in Fairfax County founded its Safe Places program to provide long-term transitional housing and support services for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Women such as Antonia and her four children have a home today because of Safe Places after fleeing to a domestic violence shelter that only allowed them to stay for about a month. Without the Safe Places program, the family could have ended up living together in their car with no money for rent and nowhere else to go for help.
Antonia, an immigrant to the United States with no family in the country, had fallen out of love with her husband, but for the sake of her children, she stayed with him.
That is, until the day he assaulted her. She called police who charged her husband with domestic assault, received a 3-day protective order, and within two days she and her children were living in a shelter. She later sought and received a 15-day protective order and ultimately a two-year protective order.
Although she lost her job while she was living in the shelter, her 19-year-old daughter Catalina is the family breadwinner for the time being. But, with help from her Safe Places case worker, she is looking to find a new job, improve her English language skills and earn her U.S. citizenship in the next two years. Catalina hopes to earn a degree in nursing and start a career.
Antonia’s dream, when she completes the Safe Places program, is to be able to afford her own mobile home, and become a homeowner instead of paying rent all her life.
Today, despite the hardships and challenges, Antonia and Catalina are all smiles and laughter and full of joy.
“We are very happy and grateful for this opportunity and for Safe Places for helping us when we had nobody,” Antonia said. “And helping still.”
“She feels positive about the future,” adds Catalina.
Just a few weeks ago, Christian Relief Services reported on the program to bridge the digital divide at Bucknell Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. Today, the fourth, fifth, and six graders at Bucknell E.S. will be receiving their computers–which for many, are the first ones they have ever had. Read below to learn about how the program started.
FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) — Every day, thousands of children in the D.C. area, including in Fairfax County, experience what many would consider unimaginable in 2015. They must do their homework offline because of a lack of an internet connection.
The inability to access what has become an invaluable learning tool caught the eye of Don Rippert, a local IBM executive who wants to fix the digital divide where he grew up.
“What do you tell those kids? You should get a second class education because your folks don’t have enough money to buy you complicated electronics?” Rippert said.
Rippert is a 1978 graduate of Groveton High School, which closed and merged into West Potomac High School. He saw a story WUSA9 did highlighting the problem two years ago and decided to do something about it.
“I just would like to level the playing field a little bit for those people because it just doesn’t seem right to me. I’m amazed it’s even legal,” Rippert said.
Rippert donated $25,000, which was matched by Christian Relief Services, to pay for computers and Internet Connection for students at Bucknell Elementary School, a school that feeds into West Potomac. 80 percent of the students at Bucknell are eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is a measure of poverty.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bridge the digital divide. A lot of our students know how to use computers because we have some that are available at the school. These computers will travel home,” Tim Slayter, Bucknell Principal said.
The computers will be like a textbook and be issued to all fourth, fifth and sixth graders. And for those kids who don’t have an Internet connection at home, they’ll receive one year of free service through Cox.
Don Rippert is hoping others will follow his lead and bring computers and Internet connection to the rest of the children in Fairfax County who need it.
Cox provides low-cost Internet connection to low-income families, but many eligible families do not use it, either because they don’t know about it or cannot afford it.
Imagine being a child with Christmas coming up with the knowledge that there will be no toys under tree come Christmas Day – in fact, there’s not even a tree to put a toy under.
Or imagine being a parent wanting to be able to share the joy of Christmas with your young son or daughter, but, being out of work it’s hard enough just to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads and the utility bills paid.
For many of our fellow Americans in hard-pressed Appalachia, this is all too often the case.
This year, Christian Relief Services will provide more than 2,700 frozen turkeys to our grassroots partners in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia during the Christmas season
This year we are asking for support from our neighbors here in Northern Virginia to help ensure children will receive at least one toy from “Santa” this year.
Christian Relief Services, located at 8301 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA, 22309, is collecting toys now through Friday, December 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 when the offices will be closed).
We are seeking new toys, in their original packaging, with a value of between $10 and $25, appropriate for children from toddler age to 12 years.
Please consider “Being a Santa” for a child in Appalachia this Christmas.
For information about the toy drive, please call 703-317-9086.
Boy Scout Barrett Banfield wanted to come up with something unique for his Eagle Scout project.
And that he did.
Barrett of Boy Scout Troop 1183 in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Virginia had worked with Christian Relief Services previously and he turned to them again first to see what he could do help out the Alexandria-based nonprofit.
“I checked with them to see if they had anything to do,” Barrett said.
And, boy did they.
Christian Relief Services owns and manages dozens of properties in Fairfax County for low-income working residents as well as victims of domestic violence and it is renovating a home it has purchased in the Engleside area of the county, just a short distance from the Christian Relief Services headquarters on Richmond Highway in the Mount Vernon District of the county.
Christian Relief Services needed someone to paint the interior of the two-story single family home – a big job, but Barrett was ready, willing and able to commit to the undertaking.
“I was looking for a unique project,” he said, and to his knowledge “no Scout has done one before.”
Barrett knew he was going to have to recruit a lot of help turning not only to members of his own Scout Troop, but also to members of Troop 1103. He rounded up fellow Scouts, including friends such as Isaak Phillips, and he also knew he could count on his fellow parishioners at his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the Franconia area of the county.
His father, church Bishop Peter Banfield and his mother Carrie, were among the more than two dozen volunteers who helped paint the interior of the house from top to bottom Saturday, Sept. 19. Others who helped out included Elder Finlayson and Elder Flowers, Doug Barclay, Spencer Parker, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Holly Dougherty and her 18-year-old son, Andrew, a recent graduate of Edison High School who in October will begin his two year mission to Brazil, and Brother Steve Echard, who just happens to have painted professionally and was doing much of the detail work.
Affordable Housing Christian Relief Services works to address the need for affordable housing by operating affordable housing units where individuals and families can live in a place within their means as well as within commuting distance from their workplace.
Supportive Housing Homes for the Homeless,” operates in partnership sponsoring agencies to include local private non-profits, and public agencies providing case management and specialized support services. We conduct housing counseling, property maintenance, and oversee the case management services provided by our sponsoring agencies. Sponsoring agencies provide direct rehabilitation, vocational services and health care.
Christian Relief Services’ affiliate, Christian Relief Services of Virginia, maintains and operates 10 of our units for their Safe Places Residential Program which provides direct case management and family therapy to victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, Safe Places runs weekly support groups for women and their children who have fled domestic violence.
Twenty five year-old Emmanuel, or “Uncle ‘E'” as he is called by the children at the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre, lost both of his parents at the age of nine. Emmanuel was continually kicked out of his classes for not paying his school fees and didn’t have food at snack or lunch time on the few days he was in class. Emmanuel, however, was lucky enough to have a friend, Paul, who lived at the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre. Paul told Mrs. Angela Miyanda, founder of the orphanage, about Emmanuel’s dire situation.
Deeply moved by Emmanuel’s plight, Angela visited the school that very week to talk with Emmanuel and his teachers. Thanks to your support, Bread and Water for Africa®, and our partnership with Angela, she had the financial means to pay his remaining school fees, keeping him from being kicked out of class. Emmanuel went to the Kabwata orphanage to thank Angela and she told him he was no longer an orphan – he was a part of their family now.
Today, thanks to his new family and hard work, he has earned a university degree and works in Accounts and Marketing at a large, reputable company in Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. When asked, Emmanuel says that the biggest problem facing his country today is the crumbling family structure. Emmanuel exuberantly promises that one day he will adopt a child of his own and become the best father he can. He hopes to carry the same good fortune he was blessed with at the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre into someone else’s life.
” In that one week after meeting Mum, I was told my school fees were paid and I received the first new school uniform I’d had in years – and I tell you, I was just in shock and thought to myself, what a blessed week this is!”
Since 1992, Christian Relief Services’ Homes for the Homeless Transitional Housing Program (H4H), in partnership with many local non-profits and government organizations, has worked directly with homeless families and individuals to help bridge the gap between our county’s homeless emergency shelter services and permanent affordable housing.
Christian Relief Services serves as program administrator, landlord, and property manager for 45 properties scattered throughout various residential communities in Fairfax County, Virginia. H4H participants are able to live in these properties for a monthly fee of no more than 30% of their monthly gross income. In return, they receive up to 24 months of safe and affordable housing, intensive case management, and other community based support services uniquely targeted toward the personal barriers they may face in obtaining and maintaining a permanent affordable housing situation.
While Christian Relief Services makes the housing possible, the following local and non-profit and government agencies collaborate with us providing over a dozen human service programs to get folks the direct services and transitional support possible: New Hope Housing (www.newhopehousing.org) Shelter House, Alternative House, Volunteers of America Chesapeake, Americans Helping Americans (www.helpingamericans.org), Friends of Guest House, and the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. Each of these organizations provides expertise based upon individual agency mission and service delivery focus. This expertise may range from mental health and/or substance abuse treatment or aftercare, recovery from domestic violence, or the acquisition of employment and/or educational qualifications.
Through these deep rooted and successful partnerships, the Christian Relief Services H4H program is able to provide necessary services and the tools to many people with a myriad of different stories. There are families whose head of household has been diagnosed with a disability, families who are homeless as a result of fleeing domestic violence, single teen mothers, single adults diagnosed with severe and debilitating mental health issues and/or cognitive impairments, and individuals receiving substance abuse treatment and aftercare services. Each resident, regardless of their individual challenges, is provided opportunities to obtain the necessary skills, income, resources and services to achieve the highest levels of self-sufficiency possible to include securing and maintaining permanent housing.
During the last fiscal year, the Christian Relief Services’ Homes for the Homeless, or H4H, program provided 46 single adults and 38 families (including 40 adults and 78 children) with safe and affordable housing. Further, through its partnerships with the Fairfax County Housing Locator Network, a collaborative of Good Shepherd Housing and the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homeless, the Christian Relief Services H4H program successfully transitioned 10 single adults and 12 families into permanent housing – so, no longer living in one of the homeless shelters or on the streets. For Christian Relief Services it’s about so much more than providing a roof – it’s about providing hope, respect and tools for the future. And we are very, very blessed to work with such wonderful partners like New Hope Housing and Good Shepherd Housing providing our neighbors in Mount Vernon and the rest of Fairfax County that all important hand up.