In 2011, Lisa Kennedy lost her job.
Along with it, Kennedy, a single mother, lost a way to make ends meet.
Soon, she couldn't pay the rent. But she tried: For the next year, Kennedy was in a state of flux, hopping from job to job but often finding herself without a paycheck.
What Kennedy needed was help on a path to more steady employment — and she got it through Bridging Affordability, a Fairfax County service that helps the area's most in-need residents establish better self-sufficiency, safe housing and a more stable life.
Today, Kennedy and her daughter live in a two-bedroom apartment. She has a regular part-time job and is also pursuing a business degree.
“The goal, of course, is to be self sufficient, and this program is helping me to do just that,” Kennedy said. “[It] truly changes lives for the better.”
Kennedy shared her story Thursday morning as FACETS, a nonprofit who helps residents like Kennedy get access to programs and housing, celebrated 25 years of fighting poverty in the county and Northern Virginia.
Hundreds of people, including stakeholders, sponsors and elected Fairfax County officials, turned out to praise the organization's success and talk about its future.
For the many residents, like Kennedy, who fall on hard times, FACETS has made an enormous difference: The county’s homeless population declined 12 percent in 2012 and is down 26 percent from 2007.
The key, officials said, is finding a secure, stable place to live.
“If you can get people in housing, everything else follows,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) said.
But Linda Wimpy — who founded FACETS in 1988, bringing hot meals to Fairfax County’s homeless residents — said while she was immensely proud of the work FACETS had done, there was still much more to do.
“It saddens me that in one of the richest communities in the united states that there are still people who are homeless – who live in the woods, who live in hotels, who live on the streets, who live in their cars,” Wimpey said. “It’s disappointing that there are some people who still can’t find safe and affordable housing.”
As of early April 2013, there were 1,350 homeless people living in Fairfax County, according to a report release earlier this month by the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness.
“Everyday I wake up with the dream of putting myself out of a job,” said Amanda Andere, FACETS director.
In late February 2013,
And the unknown effects of sequestration cuts have forced the county to halt its issuance of affordable housing vouchers. Some families were able to get their applications in on time, but many others are going to have to wait for housing.
But Ken, a Fairfax County resident and one of the first people that FACETS helped to find transitional housing years ago, was confident it could be done.
Ken lost his home when he gave up his job as a firefighter to take care of his sick mother. After she died, he was notified he had 30 days to leave his apartment. Before he knew it, he was sleeping in the woods.
FACETS helped Ken find an apartment and a job at Home Depot.
Jangling his keys, he told the crowd he's there to stay.
"These are the same keys that were given to me many years ago," Ken said. "I still live in this place. The difference is I pay my own rent."
Ken is proof that Andere's organization, with the help of the community and elected officials, is working towards something great, she said.
But "our vision is a long way from being realized," she noted.
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