Kristyn Burr, Executive Director
What is your mission and vision?
At HomeAid Northern Virginia (HANV) our mission is to build new lives for homeless families and individuals through housing and community outreach. We build and renovate homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities – - from emergency shelters to transitional housing to permanent supportive housing – via the donated expertise, labor and resources of local homebuilders. This enables nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable communities to invest more of their budgets in supportive programs and services rather than building expenses. The projects we take on are exclusively for nonprofit and government partners that not only provide housing, but that also provide wrap-around support services – job skills training, counseling, education, financial literacy programs, etc. – to help residents move toward self-sufficiency. Stable, secure housing has been shown to foster stable employment, greater success in school, and reunited families for those separated from homelessness and housing insecurity. In this way, in building a place to call “home,” we are rebuilding lives.
Our vision is to end homelessness and rebuild lives by creating collaborative partnerships and leveraging diverse resources to provide housing options and support services to homeless individuals, families, and other people in crisis in our community. By strategically building what is needed most in Northern Virginia, HomeAid is able to move towards the goal of ending homelessness and get people back on their feet, one person and one family at a time.
How does your organization achieve its mission?
To achieve our mission, we convene very diverse sectors to provide the basic need of housing– bringing together local homebuilders and trade subcontractors with local nonprofits/government agencies serving the homeless. By bringing these stakeholders together around a common goal and common project, HANV enables each to deliver on its defining strengths. Homebuilders do what they do best (construction and renovation work) so that service providers can do what they do best (provide programs to empower clients to become self-sufficient). Importantly, with facility improvements and renovations completed at free or significantly reduced cost via HomeAid collaboration, service providers can redirect dollars into programs/services instead of construction.
How have your programs directly impacted the regional community?
Upgrades to housing positively impact not only current residents in shelters and transitional housing, but will also impact the future residents as the housing is turned over and current residents move on to greater self-sufficiency. Enhanced facilities and properties also improve the balance sheet for nonprofits, and improve neighborhoods. In this way, our projects are not “done” when they are completed; their impact is felt across individuals and communities long-term. To date, we’ve completed 114 construction and renovation projects in the region, which collectively help 14,200 individuals per year to move from street to stable bed to self-sufficiency. Overall these projects have benefitted 98,000 individuals to-date. We’ve invested $14.7 mil. in building/ renovation of supportive housing and saved our service-provider partners 57% of retail construction costs – funds that could then be deployed back into community programs and services.
What inspires or drives your team to stay committed to your mission?
At HomeAid Northern Virginia, we’re infusing our day-to-day work with the belief we’re not just building homes, we’re rebuilding lives. The end result is not the “before” and “after” photos of the physical structures, but the lives that have been touched and the families that now have a place to call home. Renovated kitchens mean families can sit down at a table together and share a meal. A stable home can mean greater success in school, stable employment for parents, reunited families. Like the young single mother who moved into a HANV-renovated Homestretch apartment and was then able to bring her children to live with her. With a stable home and support services in place, she could now pursue employment and provide a stable situation for her children.
To reinforce the personal connection to our work and impact, we launched the Helping Hands program which created opportunities to support residents moving into an HANV-renovated property with “Welcome Home Baskets” of toiletries/kitchen goods, as many arrive with nothing, and/or to “Fill the Fridge” so the individuals settling in have immediate access to food. Similarly, HomeAid coordinates an Annual Night at the Ballpark, giving hundreds of baseball tickets to families living in shelters so that they have the chance to enjoy “America’s pastime” and have quality family time at a sporting event that may otherwise be out of financial reach. These types of programs enhance HANV staff and stakeholders’ connection with our projects and the impact we are having on people’s lives. These programs enable HANV to show our commitment to the residents of the homes renovate, and to participate in the rebuilding of lives beyond our brick and mortar work. Ultimately, these programs promote high morale for HANV staff, the board and for the entire community of homebuilders/trade partners involved in HANV projects.
What advice would you give to other nonprofits trying to make an impact in their community?
Priorities and funds for serving the homeless constantly change. This is likely the case for any nonprofit: the only thing constant is change. Putting processes in place to keep pace with the changing needs of the communities you serve - and evolving as needed - is key. Similarly, when dealing with enormous societal issues such as homelessness, collaboration is critical. To have sustaining impact, planning, for example, must be in sync with how service providers are helping the homeless; how/where homeless individuals are being provided shelter; and how funds are deployed. And these trends continually change.
HomeAid, for example, has taken deliberate steps to make sure our organization is responsive to the needs of the community we serve: the nonprofit service providers that provide housing, services and programs to homeless and housing insecure individuals and families. We do this by convening an annual Housing Forum - which brings together 30+ nonprofit organizations and government agencies to proactively address local trends, challenges, opportunities and jurisdictional struggles impacting homelessness in Northern Virginia. The day is designed for discussion and sharing, and we hear first-hand the challenges our stakeholders are facing and the trends they are seeing. This sort of formalized “listening” solution will be different for each nonprofit, but we have found that having clear channels for listening and collecting feedback from stakeholders about their changing needs and their evolving challenges has helped us remain a relevant go-to partner.
Video about HANV’s recent project to build a new residence on the Youth For Tomorrow campus in Bristow, Va. for girls who are pregnant, young mothers, homeless, runaways or survivors of sex trafficking.