Frequently Asked Questions
How many people are homeless in the Fredericksburg region?
On a given night, there are approximately 200 people sleeping literally on the street or in a shelter across Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg.
Why are people homeless?
Homelessness occurs due to a profound catastrophic loss of relationship. Without supportive relationships, those who lose their home struggle to navigate relief systems, submit to destructive survival tactics, and deteriorate mentally and physically, eventually accepting instability, lack of purpose and disconnection as normal.
What about lack of jobs, addiction, mental illness and other social issues? aren’t there many factors that cause homelessness?
Yes. But those are also challenges for many members of our community who never become homeless. The difference between a person whose job loss, addiction, mental illness, etc. results in homelessness and the person experiencing the same challenges who never loses housing is usually a support system with the resources and ability to intervene.
Why is the catastrophic loss of relationships such a factor for people who fall into homelessness?
Familial and other supportive relationships break down for many reasons. Generations of poverty and high costs of living leave some families under-resourced to intervene in meaningful ways. Many people are ill-equipped to deal with the complex disabilities of a family member and public interventions can be difficult to navigate. People with disabilities, who have depended on family their whole lives, may lose housing when their supporters die and no one can replace them. Kids who grew up in foster care may have never known or had a healthy relationship with a family; yet, when they turn 18, they are held to the same expectations as those who have never been disconnected from family. Elderly persons who pass their working life, find themselves on limited income and experiencing deteriorating health may not have children or spouses willing and able to get involved. Families can also be a source of trauma for people, which sometimes makes homelessness a healthier scenario than accepting help that would keep someone housed.
All in all, many members of any community experience catastrophis issues like the loss of income, substance abuse struggles, mental health problems, etc., and never experience homelessness. In general, people who suffer these problems and fall into homelessness generally do so because they have no supportive relationships to provide the safety net that can ultimately prevent the fall into homelessness.
Are all people who experience homelessness disabled?
No. Approximately 8% of people in a given community experience homelessness at least once in their lifetime. For most, it occurs a single time and never happens again. Generally, about 30% of those who become homeless get stuck in a cycle that lasts a year or more, sometimes decades. These folks often have serious and complex disabilities that make it difficult for them to regain and maintain stable housing without support. Once a person loses their permanent address, it becomes extremely difficult to apply for and keep a job. Living outdoors also exacerbates otherwise manageable health conditions, and predisposes people to other debilitating injuries.
What type of disabilities occur most often among the homeless population?
- 42% experience ongoing health problems
- 36% live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- 47% experience serious mental illness
- 15% have a traumatic brain injury
- 21% were in special education classes as a child
- 68% report four or more adverse childhood experiences
Physical and mental struggles, combined with lack of housing and breakdowns in family/supportive relationships does lead to substance abuse in about 38% of the population (SAMHSA).
If the chronic homeless experience such significant disabilities, why not rehabilitate them in shelters, or help them get into group homes or other institutional settings?
Lack of relationships for a person with physical or mental limitations does not mean they need to live endlessly in a shelter on the theory that they will someday turn the corner to self-sufficiency. Neither does it mean they need or desire the intensity of 24-hour care, such as a group home or assisted living. If anything, part of the challenge of housing chronically homeless neighbors is that they have been over-institutionalized, living large portions of their lives in jail, hospitals or shelters. In order for these neighbors to live successfully in our community and have a chance at living at their highest potential, there needs to be a housing solution that mirrors the kind of opportunities a person might have if they were being cared for by a close friend or family member.
What work has been done so far to address homelessness?
The Fredericksburg region’s current approach to homelessness largely depends on placing people into scattered site apartments with short-to-long term rental subsidies and accompanying case management. It is rooted in a proven initiative called Housing First, which gained notoriety across the U.S. in 2006. It has successfully demonstrated that people are more likely to achieve stability when basic human needs, including food, housing and safety are accessible FIRST and without precondition (such as sobriety, mental health treatment or employment).
Does housing first work?
Yes. A Housing First approach has held the annual census of homeless persons at approximately 200 people on a given night, despite the Fredericksburg region being the second fastest-growing region in Virginia. Within two years of housing placement, 88% of those housed out of homelessness do not return to the street or a shelter (Fredericksburg Regional Continuum of Care). Because of housing-focused efforts targeted to the most vulnerable and those who have spent the most time on the street, local chronic homelessness has also seen a 56% decline since 2010.
If housing first is working, why change it?
Our vision for a Jeremiah Community does not seek to replace long-time, effective Housing First strategies. It seeks to add and enhance the options available for those with the most complex needs.
The Jeremiahs of our community frequently struggle in new ways when removed from their street community and faced with the added responsibilities of living indoors. In absence of solutions that provide appropriate housing and community, neighbors who have survived the unthinkable on the streets sometimes turn up dead and alone after just a few short months in an apartment. The same four walls that prevent frequent jail and hospital visits bring about such debilitating loneliness and isolation that people deteriorate in ways they never would have while homeless. After years of living on the street, our neighbors remain stuck in survival mode even after moving indoors. In following old patterns and staying connected to destructive circles they even give up and return to the woods or sabotage the positive steps they’ve taken out of fear of losing it all again. To truly overcome chronic homelessness, a person must think of home as a matter of community; that home is about belonging, connectedness, shared burdens and relationships.
What will a Jeremiah Community offer that current approaches do not?
In short, Jeremiah community will add affordable units, single-site support, and the ability for people to have their own space while still being part of a community.
While Micah has leveraged multiple funding sources and mainstream housing resources for many years, rising rental costs and limited stock has made it challenging to find new units in the existing market. Many units on the more affordable end of the market have been absorbed by people who have found the unit through a Housing First intervention and remain stably housed because of it. A Jeremiah Community will create much-needed housing stock in our community, specifically units targeted to the unique needs of chronically homeless neighbors.
The Housing First model, thus far, has also relied on mostly scattered housing sites. The volume of people with complex needs who are now housed has become increasingly difficult to manage with the highest quality of support when case managers have to travel from site to site and the unique needs of this population does not fit easily into existing neighborhoods. In addition to consolidating support services, a Jeremiah Community will significantly enhance the opportunities for formerly homeless neighbors to be part of a community, have neighbors with shared experiences, and participate in activities that give them joy and encourage a future orientation.
An added complexity in the current model is that roommate situations are often the only way individuals can find and afford units sustainably. While there are many benefits to shared housing, it does add additional concerns for people who are overcoming trauma, have complicated interpersonal skills and other social challenges. A Jeremiah Community would allow people to have their own separate living space.
Experience tells us that chronically homeless neighbors have difficulty navigating the geography of shared walls. Apartment-style units may seem easier and more cost-effective to develop, but that doesn’t mean it is the right type of housing for everyone’s needs.
Is it a good idea for people who have experienced homelessness to live together in one community?
Once someone is in permanent housing, they are no longer homeless. The shared trauma of losing housing and surviving together on the street or in shelters, however, often creates a natural connection between current and formerly homeless neighbors. While intentional separation merges them back into mainstream society, it also removes them from natural support of the current and formerly homeless community they have come to rely on. Sometimes it is the only community they have; and their unique needs often limit their ability to form similar bonds in the neighborhoods they move into. By contrast, a community comprised of people with shared experiences has a unique ability to welcome that uniqueness and create understandings that matter in the long-term journey toward full potential. Micah’s Street Church, an ecumenical congregation of no walls, is one such example of a community that has formed under the Micah umbrella that caters to the unique needs of current and formerly homeless neighbors.
Isn’t it better to build communities with mixed incomes and experiences?
While mixed-income communities are a long advocated strategy for deconcentrating poverty, expanding job opportunity, decreasing crime and advancing social mobility, this age-old philosophy assumes there are no positive impacts of people living among others with a shared economic background. There are existing social networks in many communities. Where money does not flow freely, relationships often allow people in these communities to survive. There is little to no evidence that moving lower-income persons into middle and upper class neighborhoods will bridge social networks across class differences. In fact, there is greater evidence that these efforts further isolate people of lesser means and advance stereotypes among those who are more well-off. If mixed income is what is desired, there is greater argument that those of greater means who genuinely care about those living in poor and formerly homeless communities would choose to live among them, learn from them, love them and empower them to channel their own gifts and resources into solutions that change their trajectory.
Will Jeremiah Community make the Fredericksburg region a magnet for the chronically homeless?
Our experience and data shows us that the support and services Micah Ministries offers has not made Fredericksburg a “magnet” destination. The majority of the population we serve were born in the region or have family roots in the region. Our data shows us that most of the population we serve identified the Fredericksburg region as “home” before they began experiencing homelessness. Some of our population returned to our region because it is where they graduated high school or because of a promise of stability (i.e. housing with a friend, job, family) that brought them back to Fredericksburg.
To ensure that Jeremiah Community is addressing the problem of chronic homelessness in Fredericksburg, we will require potential residents to demonstrate proof of homeless dwelling for at least one year within the Fredericksburg region.
What is the difference between housing and community?
Housing alone will never solve homelessness, but community will. Most often, we find people on the streets who have a regular, albeit dysfunctional, community, even though they have no houses or shelter to live in. So the fundamental component that human beings need is human interaction, and human interaction occurs within community.
What makes Jeremiah Community unique?
It’s all about relationships. Micah desires to create a life-sharing community where people live affordably, have purpose, and grow meaningful relationships. A Jeremiah community will achieve this vision with a relational approach for connecting with our homeless brothers and sisters, instead of a transactional approach. When we bring an individual into community with others, we truly begin to make a sustainable impact on their lives.
Where did the idea for Jeremiah Community come from?
After almost two decades of caring for street neighbors, Micah has developed a holistic ministry that cares for nearly every aspect of people’s lives. In many ways, our organization has all the components (i.e. income development, housing, spiritual care, basic needs assistance, connection to community resources, relationships) we would imagine in a standalone community, if it existed. Those components, however, are currently just scattered. As we have learned the stories of our neighbors and understood the kind of care that will help them reach their full potential, we have realized how much some of our current and formerly homeless really need to live in a community that looks out for all aspects of their lives. As we began our research and developed a vision, we also learned that other communities that work with the street and chronic homeless have come to similar conclusions. We have borrowed what we can from other models and added our own touches to create a vision for what this community might mean to the Fredericksburg region. That vision is what we call a Jeremiah Community.
Will residents of the Jeremiah Community be drug and alcohol free?
Jeremiah Community is an evolution of a traditional Housing First model, which believes an individual must first be adequately housed before important lifesaving services such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation would be most effective. To go through rehab or receive other vital services only to be released back onto the streets is often counterproductive. Micah has taken this approach a step further by emphasizing community and relationships in all that we do.
What kind of sobriety support will be offered in the Jeremiah Community?
Micah maintains long-standing partnerships with a variety of substance abuse resources, including outpatient and inpatient programs as well as community-centric supports such as Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. When neighbors in Jeremiah Community are ready to engage with those supports, we are prepared to connect them to the appropriate intervention. The added advantage for a person seeking recovery while living in Jeremiah Community is that they can return from treatment to a loving place full of people committed to supporting their journey, rather than an empty house and newfound disconnection from the people, places and things that were bringing them down.
Where will Jeremiah Community be located?
We have identified a parcel of land in the Bragg Hill area of Fredericksburg, behind the Bragg Hill Family Life Center and the Sunshine Ballpark. The site is a total of 31 acres, with 10 of those acres able to be developed. Micah Ministries currently has the site under contract.
Will people with criminal records be allowed to live in Jeremiah Community?
Each potential resident in Jeremiah Community is required to complete a Coordinated Assessment intake with our Continuum of Care and submit to a criminal background check. Then, on a case-by-case basis, qualified personnel will review the applicant for their compatibility with Jeremiah Community and the community at large. Simply having a criminal record will not be a disqualifier. Decisions will be made based on the needs of the community, understanding the barriers to housing some of our potential residents face due to criminal records, and the safety of the whole community.
Are you concerned about crime in the Jeremiah Community?
One of our goals at Micah is to transform the way people view the stereotype of individuals who find themselves homeless. After almost two decades of serving and working within the homeless population, we believe the stereotype of chronically homeless individuals as it relates to crime is actually wrong. Chronically homeless individuals are among the most vulnerable and most often are the victims of crime, as opposed to being the perpetrators of crime. When they are involved with the criminal justice system, their offenses are typically nuisance in nature as opposed to serious offenses.
Every neighborhood in any city at any time is susceptible to some level of criminal activity. Neighborhoods can mitigate potential criminal activity through strong vigilance. The very essence of Jeremiah Community is neighbor looking after neighbor. Statistically speaking, Micah has a track record of demonstrating a reduction in arrests and hospitalizations when people move from the street into housing with support provided by our team. In a controlled, supportive Jeremiah Community, we believe these statistics will be further improved. In fact, it presents an opportunity to empower our neighbors to be part of maintaining their community as a safe refuge. Neighbors of shared experience have an incredible ability to hold one another accountable, conduct neighborhood watch, and think creatively about the tools that keep everyone safe.
What are the zoning challenges faced by Jeremiah Community?
While a Jeremiah Community is not a first of its kind, it is a new concept in the Fredericksburg region. Zoning codes are structured around a particular type of development with a specific kind of layout. While we believe a Jeremiah Community could be developed in some places without a rezoning or changes to current code, building 400-500 square-foot homes in a way that is both affordable and feasible does not fit easily into most zoning ordinances. It is our desire to develop a Jeremiah Community without a rezoning or change to the zoning ordinance, but it is likely that some step in the process toward development will face a public hearing and a vote of elected officials.
What kinds of rules will there be in the Jeremiah Community?
Respect, responsibility and safety are the tenants of accountability across all Micah programs. Individuals living in Jeremiah Community are required to follow three primary community covenants. Residents must:
- Pay rent on time.
- Abide by civil law.
- Follow the rules of the community itself (similar to a homeowners association for a neighborhood)
Who will qualify to live in Jeremiah Community?
To be eligible to live in a Jeremiah Community, an individual must be chronically homeless. This means they have lived on the street or in a shelter for at least twelve consecutive months, or four times in a three year period. They must have a disabling condition.
All potential Jeremiah Community residents are required to complete the Coordinated Assessment and agree to a criminal background check. To ensure that Jeremiah Community is addressing the problem of chronic homelessness in Fredericksburg, we will require potential residents to demonstrate proof of homeless dwelling for at least one year within the Fredericksburg Region.
How many homes will be in Jeremiah Community?
We believe there is an immediate need for 80 to 160 homes. However, we are open to exploring more than one smaller sites or a phased approach over time, as we are proving the model. Our current expectation is to begin with 30-60 homes in the first phase of construction.
Will children be allowed in the Jeremiah Community?
At this time, Jeremiah Community will focus on housing individual adults. However, we recognize that the cycle of life may sometimes require that individuals living in the village may be key caretakers or custodians of biological or related children. In such circumstances, Jeremiah Community is committed to growing with its neighbors and learning what supports will make the whole household successful. As the Jeremiah Community concept evolves, we are open to exploring what this model might look like in partnership with community partners whose work focuses on other types of homelessness, including families.
How long can people live in the Jeremiah Community?
Simply put–forever. Jeremiah Community offers permanent housing. People who live there will have a lease, pay rent and can make their own decisions year to year about whether it continues to be the right place for them to live. Anyone who qualifies can live there as long as they desire, as long as they are a good neighbor. Many of our neighbors have been so adversely affected by traumas and time on the street that their remaining life span is not long. While the average American lives until the ripe age of 75, most people who have spent time on the street live only into their mid-50s.
How do people “graduate” from the Jeremiah Community?
Jeremiah Community is a neighborhood, not a program with entry and exit dates. Neighbors who live there are people with mental and physical disabilities that limit their ability to achieve traditional versions of independence. The goal is to create a healthy community with structures of support that empower an individual’s God-given gifts, and encourage hopes, dreams and future-orientation. With the opportunity to settle into a true home, have meaningful relationships, and be invited to discern their unique calling and purpose, it is always our hope that neighbors will aspire to move beyond a Jeremiah Community and further integrate into other economic trajectories. It is not, however, up to Micah or the Jeremiah Community to decide when a person is ready for that transition. Our goal is to give opportunities for our neighbors to live the best life possible, as long as they need it.
Do neighbors have pets in the Jeremiah Community?
It is our hope as the Jeremiah Community comes to fruition that we establish partnerships with animal rescue organizations, as well as opportunities to train residents in proper pet care. Owning a limited number of pets can be both therapeutic and empowering for someone struggling with a disability and overcoming homelessness. We also really love the mutuality of a formerly homeless person helping a homeless pet to have a place to live, as well.
How does the Jeremiah Community work with local emergency services?
Micah has a long-standing relationship with Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, area police departments, and local hospitals. We often work together to aid people in crisis. We anticipate heavy collaboration as Jeremiah Community comes to fruition to establish public safety protocols that work for the broader community and our neighbors.
What kind of medical needs is the Jeremiah Community equipped to handle?
Jeremiah Community will build in and collaborate with public and private service providers to support medical and mental health needs that are typical for any person that faces deteriorating health but wishes to remain in a private home as long as possible. We do not aspire to be a group home, assisted living facility, nursing home or other institutional setting. We do, however, believe that we can create a community that increases the ability of people with disabilities who do not otherwise have a support system to live successfully outside of institutional setting and age in place.
Can undocumented immigrants utilize the Jeremiah Community?
Undocumented persons will be screened according to the same criteria as anyone else who seeks residency in the Jeremiah Community. They must complete coordinated assessment, undergo background check and prove residency in the Fredericksburg region for at least a year. Statistically, the undocumented community makes up less than 1% of our current chronic homeless population.
What services will be available to people living in Jeremiah Community?
Jeremiah Community is permanent supportive housing. The residents are provided with many on-site amenities such as a community center with a large gathering area, kitchen, laundry room, health clinic, computers, and book and video libraries. The community center will host various classes, activities, and events that all residents are welcome to take part in, free of charge. Also, on grounds will be a community garden, workshop, neighborhood store, outdoor grills, and a storm shelter. A residential care team and spiritual care team will assist in connecting with the appropriate external social services and care providers. Partnerships with many other agencies, churches and businesses would be established to provide on site support, basic needs, such as meals, and activities.
Will Jeremiah Community have 24-hour staffing?
While we do not intend to staff Jeremiah Community 24-7, we fully intend to implement round-the-clock monitoring to assure our neighbors are adequately supported. Examples of monitoring will include community wide camera systems, controlled entry/exit overnight, neighborhood watch, and missional residents that live on site.
Do residents live in Jeremiah Community for free?
No – each resident pays a portion of their monthly earnings, the sources of which include Disability, SSI, Pension, Veteran Benefits, Family Trust/Support, income from work, etc. to continue to live in Jeremiah Community.
What kinds of support is Jeremiah Community prepared to offer to increase people’s income?
Many chronically homeless neighbors actually do have some income, either from social security or employment. As disabilities often limit this population’s economic mobility, their incomes are often fixed and will never cover rent in the mainstream market. We have found, however, that many chronically homeless neighbors are entrepreneurial in spirit and can increase their income under the right supportive circumstances. Our vision also includes creating on-site revenue opportunities for neighbors to work and earn income in sheltered environments.
Since you are an organization operated by the churches, will you require participation in faith-based activities?
There will be a spiritual life within the Jeremiah Community, but no requirement to participate. Although Micah is a Christian organization, our first priority is the dignity of the human person. Additionally, we have made a commitment as part of our privilege of having tax exempt status to not discriminate against anyone. We have a deep abiding respect for all faiths and welcome all individuals into our community—both Jeremiah Community residents, and those who wish to volunteer or serve the residents living in our community.
How can individuals or groups fund homes and/or furnishings?
Homes can be sponsored for approximately $60,000 (with this number subject to change as we get closer to groundbreaking and gather more details). If you, your church, business or organization would like to build a house, you get to pick the colors and name it. Furnishings may also be sponsored as part of the move in process when someone enters the community.
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