Navy veteran gets new home in Arlington
After spending two years on the streets, a Navy veteran got the keys to his new apartment in Arlington Wednesday.
Ernest Maas called the woods of Four Mile Run Park home for nearly three years. Thanks to donations and the help of a local non-profit, Maas has a warm place to call home.
Maas says everyday without a roof over his head proved to be a challenge, adding his life took a different direction when his health started to deteriorate.
"My back went out on me," the 61-year-old veteran explained.
The injury kept him from working at his labor-intensive job. With no job, there was no money to pay for the rent.
It's an all too common story for case managers at the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN). The non-profit provides outreach services for the homeless of Arlington.
A-SPAN's Ashley Wilkerson tried to help Maas about a year ago, but she was met with some resistance.
But Maas eventually came around. After eight months of phone calls and paperwork, Maas qualified for a housing subsidy for veterans.
The donations kept coming in the form of furniture and art for the walls; some of the furniture was donated by "Operation Renewed Hope Foundation". No detail went unnoticed.
The generosity of others takes even greater meaning this Thanksgiving, especially for those in need.
Case Managers’ Support Helps Clients Stay Housed
The tent that Robert Lohman lived in near Spout Run Parkway was so hidden in the woods, people passing by on a trail just yards away couldn’t see it. After nearly ten years spent on the streets, there was a sense of permanence to his accommodations. Though he could not envision the eventual outcome, Mr. Lohman worked odd jobs as a landscaper throughout Arlington, and managed to save money that would later be used towards a security deposit.
Case manager Ayana Bellamy looked forward to Mr. Lohman’s move-in day on January 17 for weeks after receiving landlord approval. “I think I might have been more excited than he was.” She had reason to be. Ayana worked with A-SPAN Housing Locator Leonard Carter on finding the right apartment for Mr. Lohman, getting him approved and through the lease signing process. Mr. Lohman was a great candidate since he had no criminal background and a history of employment.
Ayana provides weekly support for Mr. Lohman to help him remain in housing. Mr. Lohman enjoys reading about history, and now he is rewriting his own.
Permanent Housing Client Enrolled in Local College
Sanaa Darif moved to the United States from Morocco after her parents died. She stayed with her older sister upon arriving in the US but soon found herself living on the streets after her sister kicked her out. Sanaa was just 16 years old.
Over the next several months, Ms. Darif did what many newly homeless do: move from sofa to sofa searching for a place to sleep. In early 2011, the Arlington Department of Human Services (DHS) referred her to A-SPAN. She states, “A-SPAN is the best thing I’ve ever experienced.” With the help of her case manager, she got a job at a local fitness center. And on June 3, 2011, Ms. Darif signed a lease and moved into her own apartment.
Now 19, Ms. Darif is currently enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College and plans to transfer to George Mason soon. “I love my life right now. I was never open to people, but now I am.”
Lease Signing: An Important Day for Ken Belkosky
Permanent Housing Client Understands the Importance of Housing after Spending 13 Years Living on the Streets.
Ken Belkosky had been homeless for 13 years when he signed a lease in November 2010. While living on the streets and in shelters, he worked as a vendor for Street Sense, a biweekly newspaper that gives street homeless a voice.
Mr. Belkosky is candid about how conflicting mental health diagnoses challenged him for years and left him in need of medication. He was admitted to the Virginia Hospital Center last year as a result, and later referred to the Residential Program Center (RPC). While at RPC, he learned about A-SPAN’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which has provided housing to over 40 people since its inception in Fall 2007.
On the day Mr. Belkosky signed his lease, he showed up dressed in a suit, stating, “What else would you wear to the signing of such an important document?” After moving into his apartment, Mr. Belkosky helped found A-SPAN’s Street Soccer Team, the Arlington Tigers, and now serves as one of its coaches.
Housing is His Recipe for Success
Graduate from DC Central Kitchen's Arlington Culinary Training Program moves into his own apartment.
The weight that James Muse carried for years was a by-product of a substance abuse problem he has now overcome. His addiction led the native Arlingtonian to commit a robbery, which landed him in jail. After serving time, Mr. Muse discovered how difficult it can be for an ex-convict to find a job or a place to live. He spent the next six years sleeping on sofas, at shelters and on the streets.
In 2009, Mr. Muse was admitted to the Residential Program Center (RPC) and went through the its seven-month detox program. He enrolled in DC Central Kitchen’s Arlington Culinary Training Program. Upon graduation, he found work as a cook in Ballston. With help from a case manager at A-SPAN, he finally found a place to call home. “I signed my lease on Thursday, but couldn’t move in until Tuesday. I rode by my apartment each day on a bus, looking at it but not able to go in.”
After A-SPAN helped him furnish his apartment through the “Make It A Home” Fund, Mr. Muse finally moved in.
Housing Is Her Roadmap to Wellness
“Being homeless... you are in this long, lonesome tunnel. Most days, you just want to be ignored. It’s embarrassing.”
Her words speak to the thoughtfulness of the woman behind them. But they also suggest an endless struggle to locate services and stay healthy as a single woman living on the streets. Originally from Arlington, Vanessa Bauer attended Wakefield High School and later went on to become a journalist. She had a place of her own and a career. Then life changed in an instant when Bauer, a veteran, was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I knew what was starting but I couldn’t stop it.” Ultimately, it left her unemployed and homeless.
The VA placed her in a homeless shelter in DC. She describes stays there as full of “drug addicts, hardcore mentally ill and criminals.” Yet her situation only marginally improved when she returned to Arlington three years ago. She slept on the floor since the shelter at the time did not have enough beds. Sharing a floor with men led to restless nights but it was better than the “open-air, Army-cot warehouses for the homeless” in DC. Days were just as challenging. She spent many of the coldest seeking warmth in restaurants or libraries.
Ms. Bauer returned to Arlington’s Shelter last Thanksgiving, and was “shocked” to find nursing services and a separate space for women. Even with the nurse’s care, it took nearly three months for her to recover from bronchitis and pneumonia. “I felt like I was going to give up because I was so sick. I would start to get better, and then all of us (at the shelter) re-infect each other because we spend our days on the streets.” On March 18, 2011, the shuffle through shelters and the struggle to get well ended for Vanessa Bauer. The apartment A-SPAN placed her in is a place to get well, and sleep soundly. A place to keep a computer, and rekindle a career. As she exits her “long, lonesome tunnel,” Ms. Bauer knows others step inside. Always the thoughtful journalist, she realizes the power of her words, and advocated for a year-round shelter at the Arlington County Budget Hearings in March.
(The client's name has been changed for privacy)
"I Was Out Of Resources..."
At the age of 57, after 40 years of struggling with alcohol, Nathaniel Randolph made a choice. He “could either die or go to jail. I was out of resources and I couldn’t get a grip on nothing.” He called his friend and asked to be taken to a detox program at Arlington’s Residential Program Center. He wasn’t mentally prepared to become sober before then, but knows now that if he had not enrolled in the program on that fateful March day in 2008, he would be dead right now.
After successfully completing the detox program, Mr. Randolph submitted dozens of applications and resumes online. Though his addiction made work difficult, he had always managed to find jobs as a handyman, mechanic, or computer repairman. The recession made his job search a challenge, but he finally landed a job at Harris Teeter. Even though he was working full time, Mr. Randolph continued to struggle with financial and personal issues.
Concerned, his therapist directed him to the HPRP program. He began working with Sam Gatewood, his HPRP Case Manager at A-SPAN, who served as an advocate during the HPRP application process. Mr. Gatewood encouraged him to move out of his temporary situation and into a motel that the County located for him while he waited for an apartment to become available. Akeria Brown, A-SPAN’s Housing Locator, found him an apartment at Woodbury Apartments. On December 22, 2009, after being sober for well over a year, Mr. Randolph got the call that his apartment was ready. He moved in the very next day. “It was the best Christmas present ever!”
A-SPAN purchased him a new bed through their “Make-It-A-Home” fund. Mr. Randolph is still doing well at Harris Teeter and enjoys helping people, answering their questions, and assisting them find items. He is grateful for the HPRP program and likes having a place “where I can have my own stuff and I don’t have to tiptoe around anyone. The life I am living today, two years ago I couldn’t imagine. I’m clean, I got a job, and I got a place to live. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”
(The client's name has been changed for privacy)
A-SPAN Team Helps Darren Clark
Darren Clark is a middle-aged African-American man with a warm smile and a love for gospel music. Severe glaucoma has left him nearly blind and in need of surgery. Even without his vision, he knows the streets of Rosslyn far too well. He is one of 527 homeless people living on the streets of the County on any given day.
A-SPAN Outreach Workers Olivia Payton, Terrence Toussaint and Solomon Abawi first met Darren while distributing bagged meals, clothing and blankets to homeless people at Gateway Park. Time and gentle encouragement convinced Darren to visit A-SPAN’s Opportunity Place where he met with Case Manager Anh Ninh.
Anh helped Darren qualify for SSI benefits, food stamps and a checking account. Worried about his eyes, Anh took Darren to Lions Eye Clinic, which provided free eye care and drops to relieve pressure from his glaucoma. In addition, Anh helped Darren get Medicaid, giving him the chance to have eye surgery at Washington Hospital Center.
Darren is currently looking for an apartment through an Arlington County Housing Grant. The former security guard who liked “helping people feel safe” in his former career will finally have a safe place of his own thanks to A-SPAN.
(The client’s name has been changed for privacy)