Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Samaritan House Story


SAMARITAN HOUSE

Help when life seems hopeless

by Angela Slevin


Development Coordinator Katherine Ashford and Executive Director Robin Gauthier

Development Coordinator Katherine Ashford and Executive Director Robin Gauthier

More than 35 years ago in 1981, Samaritan House started as a group of churches that came together to do something about homelessness in Virginia Beach. They saw that the homeless were a diverse population, so they didn’t focus only on women or children or men, and they wanted to offer more than shelter. They discovered that people were choosing to live on the streets because of violence at home. Not only was there violence between husband and wife, which was often witnessed by children, but there was elder abuse and same-sex couple abuse. This led Samaritan House to make it their mission to foster personal safety, growth and self-sufficiency in adults and their children through freedom from sexual and domestic violence and homelessness.

Samaritan House has a scattered-site shelter model. There are 10 secret multifamily homes throughout Hampton Roads with individual bedrooms and shared communal spaces. This allows families to be placed together, rather than having to put the father in a men’s shelter or a hotel, as some women-only shelters must do. And because some clients are escaping domestic violence, Samaritan House has the capability to place them in housing without retraumatizing anyone. For example, if a woman’s abuser was an adult male, she could be placed in a home with other women on their own, or perhaps with women and toddler children as opposed to older male children.


“In 2016, 94 percent of clients were positively housed,
meaning employed and living on their own,
paying rent with a voucher subsidy,
or living with friends or family permanently.
And we were able to transition them
to permanent housing in about 60 days.”

—Robin Gauthier, Executive Director



Like any home, there are electric bills, heating bills, mortgage payments, necessary maintenance and repairs and more. Donations of clothing, furniture and home decor are welcome, but sometimes Samaritan House has an overabundance of these generous gifts. Enter Thrift Store City on East Little Creek in Norfolk.  They’ve partnered with Samaritan House to sell some donations in order to create funds to pay for utilities. The store’s owners return a high percentage of the profits to Samaritan House. Katherine Ashford, Development Coordinator, says, “They are angels. Among other things, they enable us to pay the light bills for our main building so people can meet with advocates, get job training, and resume and interview help. That relationship is invaluable!”   

Samaritan House is deliberately structured so that any grants they receive or programs they institute do not limit them based on a specific demographic. Executive Director Robin Gauthier has been with Samaritan House for 17 years and can attest to the success resulting from their approach. “In 2016, 94 percent of clients were positively housed, meaning employed and living on their own, paying rent with a voucher subsidy, or living with friends or family permanently. And we were able to transition them to permanent housing in about 60 days,” Robin affirms.

“Because of our long track record of results, we are trusted by donors and are fortunate enough to receive large grants, which enable us to help more people,” she continues. In fact, the Attorney General’s office even gave them a grant to help stop human trafficking, a growing issue in this region.

Samaritan House works with Veterans Affairs to help our military get the resources they deserve to be self-sufficient again. Veterans sometimes return from combat a different version of themselves, and can end up having nowhere to live. PTSD can result in anger and violent behavior, which can easily prevent veterans from keeping their jobs or enjoying relationships with their loved ones like they did in the past.

Immigration status is often used as a weapon; frequently, green cards are withheld, or divorce and deportation are threatened. Fortunately, Samaritan House’s advocates have excellent resources, including skilled lawyers who specialize in immigration and children’s issues. It’s not simple, but sometimes a green card can be retrieved. The organization can reestablish documentation, although it can be very difficult, especially if the client is from another state or country. It’s important to remember that everything is often abandoned as the victims escape with the clothes on their backs and little else.

Samaritan House understands that people in this state of limbo need to know they will be laying their heads down to sleep in the same place every night, and they need a support system. The philanthropic group more than delivers on those needs. “We provide comprehensive services, not just one kind of help, and there is no recidivism. That’s what we’ve done really well through the years,” Robin comments.

What kind of help? Samaritan House will help clients leave their situations and bring them into the No Judgement Zone. Emergency services like getting protective orders or receiving counseling can be given right away. Many people who come to Samaritan House have mental health issues, extreme depression, prison records, bad credit, all barriers to self sufficiency. Each person is assigned their own case manager, and they will be given therapy services, whether one-on-one or in group settings, help getting identification in order to work, court assistance and victim advocates, job training, resume writing help and interview skill training. There is a children’s program as well to help little ones understand and put their past behind them. And of course, housing, a food pantry and clothing is always made available.

All along the way, meeting with a case manager regularly is critical to success, and they are extremely dedicated to helping their clients grow into their independence. Some clients are deeply traumatized, and can’t even imagine how their situation can get better. Case Manager Shawnna Stratford says, “It’s my job to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my clients. They don’t know what all the options are, but I do.”

Roslyn Harrel, also a case manager, adds, “Some clients come to us not thinking they can have anything, like a job or their own place to live. We help them heal and give them lots of encouragement along the way. Something as small as saying ‘You look fabulous!’ really goes a long way for people.”

Samaritan House is proud to have a partnership in place with the LGBT Life Center (formerly Access Aids Care) to help members of the LGBTQ community. Their circumstances are unique, and need to be approached with the appropriate understanding.


“It’s my job to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my clients.
They don’t know what all the options are, but I do.”

—Shawnna Stratford, Case Manager


 
One of the organization’s most impactful accomplishments was the joint creation of the Coordinated Crisis Response Hotline with the Genieve Shelter, the HER Shelter and the YWCA to provide victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking access to emergency aid and support through one central phone number, 757-251-0144. With just one phone call, no matter in which city in Hampton Roads they live, people can get help quickly.

Volunteers to clean homes, do landscaping, organize the food pantry and clothes closet are always welcome, and volunteers with social media, marketing, fundraising, special events, and public speaking skills and experience are needed, too. Those interested are encouraged to contact Melody Sanders at 757-631-0710, extension 279. Much more information about ways to help, or ways to get help,  is available on www.samaritanhouseva.org.




Samaritan House

2620 Southern Blvd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23452

757-631-0710
www.samaritanhouseva.org