The Prince William Department of Social Services department recently took over operations of the Hilda Barg Homeless Shelter and is working to make the transition as seamless as possible, said Tony Turnage, the department's homeless services division chief. "We're working diligently to make sure there's no disruption to the clients. We're quickly working to get the necessary staff in place with the aim of housing people as quickly as possible and make homelessness a brief and rare time in their lives."
For those who come to the shelter, the goal is to make it as easy as possible to receive assistance and make the stay as short as possible by assisting families with securing housing outside of the shelter, Turnage said "We're using what we call the housing first model. If you don't have a job, if you have an eviction; whatever the circumstance, we're going to help the person figure out a way to get into housing. That is our first priority. If housing can be secured, all the other challenges and obstacles to economic stability become far more manageable."
Turnage said the department is looking for people with skills to reduce the challenges that homelessness brings and to help establish the type of life skills necessary for success outside the shelter once permanent housing is secured. "We need volunteers who we can call in to help those in the shelter to overcome obstacles to permanent housing. We may need to provide assistance on resume writing to help them get jobs. We may need to tutor kids for school so they can succeed and prevent a cycle of homelessness. We're really looking for people to donate any particular skill that may help somebody improve their current situation."
With the holiday season approaching, the department is also looking for people to sponsor families by buying presents for children who find themselves at the shelter. "Because they're in the shelter, we want people to save their money, but we still want to try to make the holiday season special for the kids," Turnage said of homeless shelter residents.
People looking to help out with donations or who wish to volunteer should call Duan Chy Cayepano at 703-792-8810 to get information on how they can help.
Meal donations can also be coordinated through the Cooperative Council of Ministries. Email email@example.com for information. People in need of emergency shelter should call the Coordinated Entry System at 703-792-3366.