Many of us can go to the refrigerator for a snack whenever we are hungry. However, one in thirteen children in Northern Virginia lives in poverty. The main meals for 28% of students in county schools are the free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch they receive in school. The USDA Thrifty Food Plan estimates that a family of four needs to spend $932 per month on groceries. The average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit for such a family is $684. Most families on SNAP exhaust their benefits before the end of the month. Inflation has driven food costs up. Food pantries are available, but you need a car to reach them, and many families do not have a car. How would you cope in such a situation?

Juanita has four children. She has lung cancer, for which she receives chemotherapy.  We provided assistance and information about other food resources to this family for several months, enabling Juanita to keep the family fed. Food is a basic need, and the need continues to grow. Needing additional food resources is typical of many of the families we serve.

Addiction is a chronic disease. Individuals meeting the challenge of addiction run a continuing risk of relapse. Living in a safe and supportive environment with individuals facing similar challenges is one way to mitigate the possibility of a relapse. Oxford Houses are self-run, self-supported recovery houses. They are found throughout the US. There are ten Oxford Houses within our service area, eight for men and two for women.

To enter an Oxford House, an individual needs two weeks’ rent and an entrance fee.  Meeting this initial expense is difficult for individuals coming out of incarceration or a treatment program. Through the generosity of our donors and a grant, we have been able to provide the rent and entrance fees for a significant number of individuals who have asked us for assistance…and the need continues.

Most of us take electricity, gas, heat, and water for granted…unless we can’t afford them and face disconnection. During the pandemic, most utility firms suspended disconnection for non-payment. However, this did not relieve people of their responsibility to pay their bills, and the amount owed continued to grow. Utility companies are sending out disconnect notices again, and the cost of utilities has increased due to inflation.

Seventeen cents of every dollar we receive is used to pay an overdue utility bill. Typical is Serena, a mother living with five children. She has health challenges that limit her ability to work. She was unable to pay her electric bill, which we paid. Lucinda was dealing with an overdue electric bill of over $1,900. Her service had been disconnected.  We brought the account current by working with Fairfax County’s Coordinated Services Planning (CSP). Another typical case is Barbara, who had received a disconnect notice and could not get assistance from CSP. Through our benefactors’ generosity, we were able to pay the electric bill and ensure that she and her son had power for Thanksgiving.

The Society encourages independence. We treat those we serve with dignity and respect. Self-respect and independence come from the ability to provide for oneself and one’s family. Sometimes the ability to earn a living comes down to having the right tools.

Ned is a refugee with a wife and four children. He needed tools to retain his job.  We were able to purchase the tools he needed. Alex required assistance purchasing work clothes, boots, and tools for a full-time construction job. We were able to provide these essentials for his work.  In addition, one of our Vincentians volunteered to drive Alex to the Metro until he received his first paycheck. We assisted Nina and her three children for some time with various needs as she has struggled with multiple challenges. Recently, Nina found full-time work, and is grateful for the assistance which helped her reach this goal.

How would you feel if you and your family faced eviction or foreclosure? Unfortunately, this became more common when the moratorium in place during the pandemic was lifted. During a three-month period, 845 Writs of Eviction were issued in Fairfax County. When the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department serves the eviction notice, the family usually has 48 hours to vacate. Locks can then be changed, and any belongings in the property are typically lost.

Anne, an older widow with lung cancer, was evicted from her home and, in the process, lost most of her furniture and possessions. Her situation was brought to our attention.  Working with another non-profit, we were able to find an intermediate housing solution until she could move into a longer-term situation. Stephanie, her partner, and three children were facing eviction because of a significant backlog in unpaid rent. We assisted her in working with Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) to find emergency housing. We also helped her find a place to store the family’s furniture and possessions after eviction.