Guest Blog: On the Ground Notes, Community Lodgings (Alexandria, VA)

written by naehblog
September 3, 2009

In the fight against homelessness, there are a number of solutions and ideas. So far, we as a country have embraced homelessness management – and constructed a series of shelters and assistance programs that do benefit the lives of the homeless but does little else to lift them out of homelessness in a more effective and permanent way.

The Alliance supports a different approach – one based on permanent housing as a solution to homelessness.

In between the two is the concept of transitional housing – a temporary situation that can aid individuals and family who are suffering a short-term crisis. Here’s a story from Bonnie Baxley, Executive Director at Community Lodgings. Inc., a transitional housing program in Alexandria, Virginia.

All families who enter Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program are homeless and most are referred to us by local temporary shelters. Each of our families has their own unique story usually revolving around themes that are all too familiar: addiction, domestic violence and a lack of education.

Recently, we welcomed a new family to our program. J.D., a single mother, and her 5-month old son exemplify the constant struggle that characterizes homelessness. Still, they continue to overcome seemingly incomprehensible problems through support from our caseworkers and their own enduring hope and perseverance.

A 31-year old single mother, J.D., was referred to Community Lodgings from a local homeless shelter. She entered our two-year program with a history of incarceration and substance abuse as well as a hearing disability.

But since her worst days, J.D. has paid her debt to society, maintained sobriety for over two years, and now seeks a new life for her family. She has two children – a 5-month old son that lives with her and a 14-year old daughter living with an aunt in another city.

The family continues to make progress one step at a time. J.D. is currently employed through a temporary staffing agency, working a minimum of 16-20 hours per week while she seeks full-time employment. With the help of Community Lodgings, J.D. enrolled in culinary courses to broaden and strengthen her skill set. She focuses on maintaining sobriety, completing her education and obtaining a GED, and securing full-time employment to provide basic necessities for her children. She is also being treated for bipolar disorder at a local health clinic.

J.D. is determined to make a success of her life.

But she still needs ro concentrate on providing for her family. J.D. receives TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) assistance, food stamps and supplemental security income.

As JD progresses, her caseworker reviews and offers guidance on how to reorganize her financial situation – her budget is based on total monthly income and projected spending. The goal, for both J.D. and for Community Lodgings, is for J.D. to reach independence.

J.D.’s family is one of 13 families currently enrolled in Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program. It is through our program that she and other families strive to meet the ultimate goals of independence and self-sufficiency.

The two-year transitional program helps our families “open doors to independence” by providing an apartment and a support system cultivated by caseworkers, program directors, and community programs. Families sign a two-year commitment contract with Community Lodgings and promise to: stay drug and alcohol free; attend all workshops, meetings and activities as prescribed by our caseworker; and pay a monthly fee based on 30% of her income. Caseworkers provide guidance and opportunities to improve education, employment, finances, health, housing maintenance and emergency services. They also work closely with our Family Learning Center staff to organize parenting, anti-gang, family violence, financial literacy and substance abuse workshops and computer literacy and English classes for adults. 
For more information about Community Lodgings, please visit their website.