McLean Rotary yesterday gave its Business Person of the Year award to the executive director of a nonprofit in Falls Church that helps the homeless of Fairfax County.
"Being in the nonprofit world, people don't think of you as in business, but we have to run" a budget, manage a staff, etc., said Christopher Fay, executive director of Homestretch.
The mission of Homestretch: To empower homeless families to get homes and become self-sufficient, Fay told Tuesday's Rotary meeting.
"We put them in a home — the first day. A key to an apartment where they will live for three months or two years," Fay said.
"Hope is the first thing and most important things that we have to help them develop," he said.
"If you go there, you will fall in love with them," McLean Rotary president Cherry Baumbusch said. "I thought I was going to a shelter, but Homestretch gives them life tools. It's an all encompassing program," she said.
Rotary vice president Jan Auerbach said, "How successful they have been in taking people with such unhappy circumstances and in two years they become self-sufficient. It's because they have identified the skills they will need."
Auerbach has organized nine other local Rotary clubs to donate $10,520 to Homestretch.
5 Things to know about Homestretch:
1. Ninety percent of the homeless families they help are single mothers with children.
2. Sixty percent of them are homeless because of domestic violence. "They were in a home where the abuser was so controlling ... in order to leave she had to face homelessness," Fay said. Five percent were victims of human trafficking. Ten percent are substance abusers. Thirty percent are from foreign countries. Thirty percent have a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, he said. There is overlap between these general percentages.
3. The newest program: to establish a day care center scheduled to open in a few weeks to help 3- to 5-year-olds from homeless families get ready for school. The day care center awaits final state approval, Fay said. Kidsstretch will teach ABC's and the structure of a classroom to kids used to living in a car and who move frequently.
4. They can house 65 families at one time and tend to help about 110 families, a year. Those families usually have 130-140 children, Fay explained.
"Our children tend to do well (in school). We have a lot of kids on the honor roll." Homestretch has 24 staff members of which 16 are full-time, he said.
5. They have an 85 percent to 90 percent success rate of making families self-sufficient.
Claire Fay, who works with her husband, described Homestretch as an agency that removes obstacles so the homeless can succeed.
They teach financial literacy. They make sure the families save to pay off debts. They supply lawyers, training programs, backpacks, even birthday cakes and presents for the kids.
"We have an incredible array of services that can be transformative for the families if they take hold of it," Fay said.