A crowd gathered for the recent ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Bill Mehr Drop-In Center. The new center will allow the county to offer additional services to help meet the needs of the homeless population.
In December 2015, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors allocated $500,000 to renovate the building at 14716 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge, which then served as the county's Human Services Building. The renovation would allow the Drop-In Center, or DIC, to move from the nearby Winter Shelter, a smaller facility which limited the amount of services that could be provided to the homeless.
The old center lacked private areas for training, confidential mental health counseling and one-on-one skills training for employment. The renovation brought classroom and training space, private counseling areas, laundry, shower facilities and an instructional, commercial kitchen.
During a recent ribbon cutting ceremony, Prince William Supervisor John D. Jenkins said the renovated Drop-In Center will aid people in making good choices in their lives. "This facility is dedicated to help persons who are homeless move toward self-sufficiency."
Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart said opening the new facility was a "proud moment" for the county. "We take pride in Prince William that this is a community with heart, and it's a community that takes care of its own."
The Prince William County Department of Social Services collaborates with the Cooperative Council of Ministries, or CCoM, to operate the DIC. The CCoM is a coalition of Christian churches that work together to provide services to the county's chronically, unsheltered homeless.
Hilda Barg, who was the Woodbridge District Supervisor for 20 years and now serves as chair of the Social Services Advisory Board, thanked the Board of County Supervisors for the center. "This would not be happening if it was not for the board of supervisors providing support and money to redo this building."
Barg also thanked the CCoM member churches. "A county can't do it all, but a community of servants like you make a difference. Together we can do it all. We may never stamp out [homelessness], but we can lower the numbers."
The original Drop-In Center opened in 2002 with one employee and several volunteers. Bill Mehr (1954 – 2010) led the effort and spent a lot of time at the center and the surrounding woods ministering to the homeless with the help of the Prince William County Police Department and transportation companies.
George Orr, the CCoM Chair, quoted a passage from the Book of Psalms saying "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Orr said the DIC would provide the CCoM with the opportunity to keep helping the homeless. "I can see that this new drop-in center facility is a light in Prince William County for us to continue on that path to serve those in need."
For more information about the Bill Mehr Drop-In Center and other homeless services, visit www.pwcgov.org/shelters.