May - June 2014 • FREE • Issue #3
I N FAI R FAX AND THEY NEED
HOPE & A FUTURE. WWW.THELAMBCENTER.ORG
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community perspective from the publisher
from the executive editor
A few months ago, Patti Brown, Assistant Director of The Lamb Center, came to Bishop O’Connell High School where I teach to give a presentation and offer our students opportunities to serve. I attended with my advisory group and was “wowed” by all the services The Lamb Center provides to the homeless in Fairfax. I subsequently decided to propose the idea of volunteering to the Keyettes, a girls’ service club that I moderate. The response was overwhelming with more than half the members offering to help out. They were obviously as impressed as I with Patti’s presentation. We sent a group of ladies on a Saturday morning in March and have plans to do the same in May, as well as continue providing the opportunity to volunteer during the next school year.
It is indeed a great pleasure to have Community Magazine included in the mailing of Viva Tysons and reach the high quality readership of such a prominent and vibrant periodical. Sue and I wish to extend our deepest appreciation to Johnny Hanna and everyone at Calamity Media for their help in bringing our publication to you. We also wish to thank our “partners”, Attorney John Ryan, our trusted & highly competent personal attorney, Tysons Auto Specialties and Tom Ivey, to whom Sue and I have entrusted our vehicles for nearly twenty years, All Pro Dental, as Drs. Alkishtaini & Koussa embark on their new practice together, Gemmis Technologies and Missy Tuttle, providing top notch technology services to businesses both big and small, All About Insurance Agency, where your insurance needs will receive individualized and focused attention from Mark Rackham, Care Plus Home Health Services and Dr. Yasir, whose competent and caring staff will take care of you when you cannot, Ross Anderson, providing expert financial planning guidance through Morgan Stanley, JL Tree Service and Sean Lewett, who has trimmed and pruned our yard almost as long as Tom has serviced our cars, Sterling Artists & Crystal Strings, through which Frank Busso represents some of the finest performing musicians in this area and Marc Adem and Judith Mitchell of Mastercraft Floors, who bring an unequalled level of artistry to the treatment of your floors.
Upon further contemplation and after conferring with Joe, we decided to feature the Lamb Center in the May/June, 2014 issue. While we were aware of its existence; it being only a few miles from our home, we were aware neither of the depth of its program, nor the number of individuals who benefit thereby. Please consider donating your time and/or treasure to this most worthy cause.
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Why the extended litany of kudos? Well... second only to our primary mission of providing free publicity for deserving organizations is a commitment to maintain reasonable placement rates; making the decision to join in supporting these charities an easy one. Each partner understands our mission and the benefits they derive from “cause-based marketing”. All of them are local businesses, owned
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by your neighbors. In every case, Sue and I are customers or know the business well enough to be comfortable recommending their services to our readers. We ask you to consider that as you choose to patronize them. Let them know you appreciate their participation. We hope you will enjoy reading about our featured organization, The Lamb Center, located in Fairfax City, which does an incredible job addressing the needs of the homeless. As always, we welcome your comments and questions, whether by phone or email.
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The Lamb Center
by Joanne Smeaton
their car, or melting into the woods at night to sleep. Maybe their fan belt broke and they can’t get to work, then they can’t pay the rent. In the past, that person may have bounced back quickly, but in the recent economy, it’s a lot tougher.”
hat does homelessness look like? You might be surprised. Over 60,000 people in Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, live below the poverty level. No less that 3,000 of them experience homelessness every day. As you shake your head and wonder how this can be happening in your own neighborhood, consider that over 90,000 of the 25+ year-olds living in Fairfax County never graduated from high school. Some have addiction issues, some suffer with mental illness. These disadvantages become a “ticking time-bomb” which, given one big bump in the road, or a series of small ones, can explode, leading to homelessness. The Lamb Center, a nonprofit organization located in Fairfax, VA, exists to serve the poor and homeless in our community and help them transform their lives. It was founded over 20 years ago by (then) rector Martyn Minns of Truro Church, in Fairfax City. The steady flow of individuals who came to him for help inspired Minns to move forward and create a more expansive program that would help people get back on their feet and move on with their lives. Today, the center is led by Executive Director, John MacPherson, along with a staff of seven, over 150 volunteers, church partners and generous donors. John says, “We all can recognize homeless people holding signs at stoplights, and we might give them a few dollars. But, homeless people in Fairfax are not as obvious. People may look ‘normal’, but they are living in
Lamb Center statistics for the past year: Guests served daily Guest visits Church partners Meals served
100 30,989 119 44,725
John continued, “The Lamb Center serves as an emergency room for the homeless. People often come here on their last leg, without hope and nowhere to turn. We provide many practical services to these people. However, the most important thing we provide is hope and direction.”
A Leg to Stand On
Greg only has one leg to stand on. While many of our guests have difficulty standing on their own two feet, Greg literally had one of his legs amputated six years ago. He recently lost his leg again, when someone stole his prosthesis. You see, due to a series of unfortunate events, Greg lost his housing, and was living in his car. He was so tired one night, that he removed his leg and forgot to bring it back in the car before he fell asleep. When he woke up in the morning, the leg was gone. Greg had a good job as a manager for the Post Office for 27 years, before he lost his leg and was forced to retire on disability in 2009. Since the time his toes first became infected, he has endured 58 surgeries on his foot and leg. c o n t i n u e d o n Ne x t P a g e
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Please call for a free consultation: 703.663.8276 | Or visit us at allprodentalcare.com FIFTY EIGHT! During this period he also lost his home due to a fire, and was separated from his wife. Yet through all this Greg has remained upbeat. Whenever he is asked how he is doing, Greg’s response is always “I am blessed!” After he lost his leg in December, Greg came to TLC in despair. Although he has medical insurance, Greg’s copay to replace his prosthetic would cost him over $3,000. And without his leg, Greg was unable to continue working at his job as a dishwasher at the Marine mess hall. Greg shared the details of his crisis with us, and we sent a call out to several area churches, who quickly came together to cover the copay on a new leg. When Greg came bouncing back into The Lamb Center a few days later on his new leg, the first thing he did was donate his no longer needed crutches to us. The second thing he did was take out our trash.
Greg is now back to work at his new job at a marine corps barracks. His next goal is to save up enough money for a deposit and furnishings for an apartment so he will no longer be homeless. Not all of our guests have a disability that is as obvious as Greg’s. Still, most are unable to pull themselves up by their boot straps even with two good legs.
Even Greg, who has an incredibly upbeat attitude in spite of all the tragedies he has endured, needed the help of others to stand on two legs again. -John MacPherson Lamb Center Services Open weekdays from 8 am – 3 pm, and from 8 am – 12:30 pm on Saturday, The Lamb Center is a “drop in” shelter. Patti Brown, Assistant Director of the center, said, “People come in and out all day. The other day, we had 90 people stop by.” Following, is a list of the fifteen major services the center provides. •
ID CARD & DOCUMENT RECOVERY
MAIL & MESSAGE SERVICES
PHONE & COMPUTER ACCESS
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DENTAL & OPTICAL REFERRALS
SOCIAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE
TAX PREPARATION ASSISTANCE
MEDICAL & MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALISTS
ON-GOING AA MEETINGS
Who are the homeless?
According to Patti, “Over 70% of our guests are men, aged 30 – 50. Many have mental illnesses or addictions.” In fact, over 60% of The Lamb Center’s guests suffer from pervasive, longterm mental illnesses or addictions. Close to 20% are veterans or ex-offenders. Many are chronic and transient homeless who survive wherever possible, including the street. The most pervasive cause of homelessness is the inability to afford basic services, such as housing. The fair market rent for a onebedroom apartment in Fairfax County is $1,318 per month; $1,494 for a two-bedroom apartment. To make this payment each month, a single parent working full time needs to earn $28 per hour, and many do not. Clearly, earning just the minimum wage, ($7.25 per hour), provides only one fourth of that. Many c o n t i n u e d o n Ne x t P a g e
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have an annual income below the poverty line, $11,170/person. Others have a disability that all but prevents them from earning a viable living. Even if they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the monthly average of $674 is less than half the cost of that two-bedroom apartment.
love them and provide for them without regard for their performance. Sometimes, we can help people achieve society’s definition of success. Some need subsidized housing, or permanent supportive housing. We help everyone work through the red tape, and we care.”
Now, add a low credit score to the mix. Divorce, medical issues, poor decision-making and many other factors can and will have an adverse effect upon an individual’s rating. Most apartment complexes, landlords and owners will not accept prospective tenants with poor credit. Today, credit scores are used (in the absence of any human review) to drive decisions reaching far beyond one’s ability to repay debts, such as employability. The obstacles continue to increase and, by no means, are at an end.
John and Patti both like to tell the story of Robbie, who had come to the shelter on a day when someone donated quite a few hard boiled eggs. He asked if there was any mayonnaise, and when there was none, he went to the store to get some. While he was gone, Patti found the mayonnaise, and when he got back she said to him, “Robbie, I found some mayonnaise.” Robbie froze. When Patti asked what was wrong, he said, “That’s the first time in 8 years that someone has called my name.”
How you can help To volunteer:
The Lamb Center is always looking for volunteers who can make a difference in the lives of guests. From serving hot meals and folding laundry to spending time with guests, you can choose from the many volunteer opportunities, which are detailed on the Center’s website (www. thelambcenter.org).
Those without access to transportation may be unable to get to and from work, take their children to day care or doctor’s appointments, etc. The enormity of all these adversities is often catastrophic and can lead to homelessness.
More than just a meal
While The Lamb Center is focused on providing a haven for the homeless where they can get their basic needs met, there is much more going on. “We meet everyone where they are, and assist them in their life walk,” John said. “We learn to
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” - Mother Theresa
To make a donation:
Every dollar invested in serving and counseling homeless people can have huge returns for the local economy. By helping homeless people clean up, secure employment and have transportation, c o n t i n u e d o n Ne x t P a g e
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and direction to sustainable housing initiatives, we can have a big impact at a surprisingly low cost. Just $50 provides all of the Lamb Center’s guests with hot showers and laundry for one day. Donations can be made securely online at http://www.thelambcenter. org/donate/. Or you can mail a check to: The Lamb Center PO Box 1385 Fairfax, VA 22038-1385 You can also donate goods. The Center is in continuous need of personal care, hotel/trial size toiletries, laundry, paper and plastic food serving products and maintenance supplies. Browse the list on the web site, purchase some supplies and drop them off at The Lamb Center.
Every year, The Lamb Center sets ambitious goals to raise more money and help people more effectively. As The Center grows, so does their vision. The Center plans to offer even more services by 2015 such as increased case management and counseling services, and more intensive services to more effectively address the homeless crisis. The Center also plans to expand and will likely be moving to a larger facility in the same neighborhood which is centrally located and accessible by bus.
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“When I came to The Lamb Center and was invited to sit at the table and I did, the world changed. (I can’t describe the feeling. The world became still and I knew that something powerful had happened when I put down my urge to bolt for the door and sat down.) I want to learn how to come alive and be God’s hands as you are at The Lamb Center. The staff and volunteers moving invisibly through us like angels, it’s amazing. You all are ‘saviors of damaged creatures, nurturers of transformation.’”
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