Virginia Home for Boys and Girls (VHBG) and Side by Side have launched a partnership called Pride Place at VHBG to serve LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness.
“LGBTQ+ young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their peers. Although this was all the case before COVID-19, the pandemic is exacerbating an already growing problem and we are bracing for an increase in need from our community,” said Ted Lewis, Side by Side executive director.
At no cost to participants, the Pride Place at VHBG program will provide safe, transitional housing for 14-18 homeless LGBTQ+ young adults annually who are between the ages of 18- 25. Side by Side will provide the case management, intake, and overall support for LGBTQ+ young adults while VHBG will provide the physical space, emergency response, and opportunities for learning life skills. Clients will be paired with Peer Navigators through a partnership with the Nationz Foundation. Each client has their timeline for length of stay, but will typically live at the residence from two to six months.
“Virginia Home for Boys and Girls and Side by Side share a mission to provide care to young people in crisis. Our trauma-informed approach is infused into all of our transitional living services, including our Independent Living Arrangement (ILA) program that provides a strong foundation for Pride Place at VHBG,” said Claiborne Warner, VHBG president.
The Pride Place at VHBG program will be located in two brick homes on VHBG’s 30+ acre campus in Henrico County. Originally built to house staff, these well-equipped homes provide private bedrooms, and communal living and kitchen space.
One of the homes recently underwent a complete remodel through a donation from Lowe’s Home Improvement. Lowe’s also recently provided kitchen appliances for use in the second home. Homes are fully furnished and equipped with necessities including bedding and kitchen gear thanks to volunteers from Thalhimers, Pay It Forward, and Costco.
Pride Place at VHBG brings together two strong, successful nonprofits, drawing the perfect blend of expertise in independent living arrangements, trauma-informed care, LGBTQ+ specific needs, and youth services to reach a specific population of homeless young people who otherwise are likely to face living on the streets.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are expediting our efforts to match the rapidly growing need. The moratorium on evictions extends only till May 31, so our partnership launch is in time for a possible spike in homelessness. Our homes are already constructed for independent living situations and our organizational partnership formed before the pandemic, so we can move quickly and anticipate opening the homes in June to meet the immediate need,” stated Warner.
About the issue
- Side by Side along with partners at the Nationz Foundation and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project launched a Host Home program last year but recognized that multiple safe and affirming housing options for youth were needed.
- LGBTQ+ youth are at a greater risk for homelessness. 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, yet LGBTQ+ youth-only account for 9 percent of the youth population.
- Locally, the Youth Count study by Advocates for Richmond Youth showed 35% of youth in Richmond who are experiencing housing instability identify as LGBTQ+.
- LGBTQ+ youth face homelessness and housing instability at disproportional and alarming rates, but there are currently few housing services in our region specifically for them to address this problem.
- Family conflict is the most common cause of all youth homelessness. For LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, the conflict tends to be over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to be robbed, physically or sexually assaulted, or be a victim of a hate crime.
- A 2019 report from the Williams Institute noted that 22% of the LGBTQ+ community live in poverty compared to 16% of the general population, putting our LGBTQ+ youth at risk for falling through the cracks and into homelessness.
- LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ young adults, are overrepresented in the restaurant and food industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic.
- LGBTQ+ youth often don’t have a family connection to fall back on and seek support from. As a result, those who are newly unemployed are not far from being newly homeless.
- One of the homes recently underwent a complete remodel thanks to the generosity of Lowe’s Home Improvement. Lowe’s also recently donated kitchen appliances for use in the second home.
- Homes are fully furnished and equipped with necessities including bedding and kitchen gear thanks to volunteers from Thalhimer, Pay It Forward, and Costco.
- Participants of the Pride Place at VHBG program will also have access to VHBG’s ILA Commons, a communal gathering space that includes a computer room, exercise room, relaxation room, and recreational equipment.
- Side by Side regularly receives referrals from other homeless services agencies including Homeward, the Possibilities Project, and the McKinney Vento Project. Additionally, Side by Side has built strong relationships with St. Joseph’s Villa and their new youth outreach program to identify youth experiencing homelessness in the City as well as Commonwealth Catholic Charities and Advocates for Richmond Youth’s new Youth Hub. Referrals are also received from local foster care agencies, youth detention centers, and area hospitals.
‘Superheroes’ keep hungry Virginia students fed during pandemic
Many Virginia public school students are returning to the classroom after a year away, but their access to school meals never stopped. No Kid Hungry Virginia recently hosted a discussion with three administrators to highlight how their districts made school meals available despite the pandemic.
By Noah Fleischman
Many Virginia public school students are returning to the classroom after a year away, but their access to school meals never stopped.
No Kid Hungry Virginia recently hosted a discussion with three administrators to highlight how their districts made school meals available despite the pandemic. No Kid Hungry is an organization that works to make sure children have access to proper nutrition.
“When schools closed last March … we knew right away that we still had to feed our students,” said Chip Jones, superintendent of Cumberland County Public Schools. “That was the priority.”
Cumberland schools gave children a week’s worth of food at a time to take home. The pandemic made Jones appreciate the resources at Cumberland’s disposal, he said. It also made him think outside the box for getting meals to students.
“We’ve seen how much a school means to a community, and what a school can do for a community,” Jones said.
Jones said school nutrition workers—who prepare and serve school meals—kept students fed.
“School nutrition workers are usually some of the lowest paid professionals in the school community,” Jones said. “Yet, they were willing to take on one of the biggest jobs and be on the front lines.”
Clint Mitchell, principal at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School in Fairfax County, also praised school nutrition employees.
“Nutrition teams are superheroes,” Mitchell said. “They never complained about coming to work. They found a way to do it.”
Larry Wade, director of school nutrition at Chesapeake Public Schools, said staff only had a weekend to come up with a plan to feed students once schools closed.
The department developed multiple distribution models to get food to families, Wade said. That included “grab and go” service at schools and used school buses to transport multiple days worth of meals to families.
Fairfax County Public Schools also utilized the bus delivery system. Mitchell said some students didn’t have transportation to get to the “grab and go” sites.
A No Kid Hungry study found that 47% of American families live with hunger. The statistics are worse for Black and Latino families, 53% and 56%, respectively.
“Students of color are disproportionately impacted by the hunger crisis,” Mitchell said. “When it comes to equity, we must focus not only on school meals, but on transportation and public health issues as well.”
Fairfax County also added weekend meal pickups for those that couldn’t make it to the weekday grab and go locations, Mitchell said.
“It’s all about access,” Mitchell said. “When we talk about equity, it’s about making sure we provide our students with exactly what they need.”
The first wave of Mount Vernon Woods students returned to the classroom this week. Mitchell said with students in the building, it will help remove the “stigma that resides in standing in line at a grab and go site.”
“We are able to now serve more kids in the building,” Mitchell said. “I’m super proud our food service staff is ready to go in the morning with our meal service and our breakfast service by delivering meals to teachers at their door.”
Chesapeake, Cumberland and Fairfax school districts are among many in the state that provide free meals for students with U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers that were extended until Sept. 30.
The waivers provide a form of “universal meals,” said Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, in a February interview with Capital News Service. Roem is part of a national effort to establish universal school meals, or free school meals for all children, not just those who qualify for reduced breakfast and lunch. The General Assembly passed eight school meal bills since 2019 that Roem introduced. She said she won’t stop introducing these bills until the problem is solved.
“My ultimate goal is for universal free breakfast, free lunch that meets all of the USDA guidelines and standards available to any student who wants it without question, without payment,” Roem said. “Anyone who’s hungry eats.”
The waivers help all 45 schools in the Chesapeake Public Schools system provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks through curbside service, Wade said. Chesapeake schools provided more than 38,000 meals to students during winter break, he added.
“The waivers and flexibilities that have been offered, have opened the opportunity to see our program through a different lens and perspective,” Wade said. “By allowing students to receive meals regardless of their economic status, it’s allowed our communities to come together to support a need that’s always been there.”
Mitchell said the waivers are a start, but there are still things to be addressed.
“I think all children in this country should be fed when they walk through our doors, regardless of what school they’re in,” Mitchell said. “It’s a hunger issue, it’s an American issue, it’s an issue that we have to deal with directly, and I thank the USDA for taking the initial steps, but we still have work to do.”
UMFS’ “Courage to Succeed” program recognized as Partnership of the Year
CA and C2S offer coaching and support for people with neurological differences, including autism.
Courage to Succeed (C2S), a program of UMFS and Charterhouse School, was recognized by CA Human Services with a Partnership of the Year award. CA and C2S both work with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental or neurological challenges.
C2S helps students earn a college degree or certificate, find work in their chosen field, and achieve independence. CA Human Services offers programs for children and adults with ASD, as well as advocacy at the systems level.
CA Human Services President and CEO Jessica Philips presented the award to C2S Program Coordinator Kelly Magee and C2S Therapist Craig Simmons on the UMFS Richmond Campus last week. This presentation was made ahead of the CA Human Services Annual Conference, which is being held virtually this week because of COVID-19.
City hires former Richmond 300 project manager as the manager of new Office of Equitable Development
In her new position and in leading the new office, she will focus on working across city departments to plan for and facilitate the creation of the more sustainable, beautiful, and equitable city envisioned by Richmonders in the master plan.
Maritza Mercado Pechin will serve as a Deputy Director within the Planning & Development Review Department and will manage the city’s new Office of Equitable Development.
Pechin formerly served as the project manager for the city’s master plan, Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth. In her new position and in leading the new office, she will focus on working across city departments to plan for and facilitate the creation of the more sustainable, beautiful, and equitable city envisioned by Richmonders in the master plan.
“Richmond 300 is a roadmap for the Richmond we want to be after 300 years of tumultuous history,” said Mayor Stoney. “This office, under the leadership of a tested public servant and planning professional, will start us down that road.”
The office is housed under the Department of Planning and Development Review but will work laterally across the entire Planning and Economic and Community Development portfolio. This will allow office staff to coordinate and collaborate with staff citywide to realize the vision detailed in Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth.
Pechin will report directly to DCAO for Economic and Community Development Sharon Ebert and work closely with the Office of the CAO and Mayor.
“The process to create Richmond 300 was expansive and inclusive, and now, the fun of implementation begins. I am honored to join the city staff to execute the recommendations outlined in the plan so that Richmond 300 is truly a guide to creating a more equitable, sustainable, and beautiful Richmond, and not just a plan that sits on a shelf,” said Pechin.
“Richmond 300 set a new bar for community engagement,” said Acting CAO Lincoln Saunders. “Establishing this office will enable the administration to work across the department to build on that model, pursuing growth in an inclusive and equitable way.”
“I am delighted to be working with Maritza,” said DCAO Sharon Ebert. “Her expertise in planning, organizing and implementing inspired great confidence throughout the community engagement process for and writing of the Richmond 300 Plan.”