By Mark Gunderman
Last year 62 children were provided an unconditional love in the GSA shelters. A total of 118 people lived in our shelters receiving 8,216 bed-nights and 20,540 meals in 2010. However 937 folks were turned away due to a lack of bed space. Over 1,400 near homeless families were assisted through GSA Outreach and Resources and Referrals programs.
There is an award winning homeless animal shelter in Waterford, Virginia. It is located on a beautifully landscaped 13 acre parcel of land not far from an historic village. The 13,000 square foot facility includes a state of the art heating and air-conditioning system, a clinic for dogs and cats and animal visitation rooms. The paid staff and volunteers are conscientious and well trained. The homeless animals are kept in comfort, provided human love and treated with dignity.
There is an award winning homeless human shelter in North Leesburg for women and children. We call the 10 acre property Hebron (place of refuge). The Good Shepherd Alliance (GSA) is determined to provide unconditional love to these people in their time of greatest need. When an individual or family comes to the GSA seeking shelter at our Women and Children’s shelter, they are required to enter the Six Steps to Self-Sufficiency Program. We believe it is essential to provide them opportunity to plan for a long-term solution; not just shelter for a specific period of time.
Some homeless people go through life never having been loved. They grow up in an environment being abused, neglected or even abandoned during childhood. They were unloved from birth. I call these people the unloved. As adults, they find themselves living in dysfunctional families or dysfunctional relationships. They frequently lose their jobs and apartments, friends and families and find themselves living out in the streets or in cars or vans or tents. People without shelter fall prey to parasites, frostbite, infection, hopelessness and violence.
Tucked away deep in the Loudoun Woods, Hebron House is shelter for single women and single mothers with children. The GSA operates this 22 bed emergency shelter named after a city in the Bible meaning “place of refuge.” Residents immediately enter into our Six Steps to Self-Sufficiency intensive case management program. The program is geared to helping families in crisis get back to work and find a permanent residence. Guests may stay up to 89-days in the emergency shelter.
The GSA Mission Statement is as follows:
The Good Shepherd Alliance, Inc. exists to provide women, children, and families in crisis with emergency shelter, food, clothing, children’s programs, and counseling and transitional housing for pregnant women so as to empower them to become self-sufficient in the shortest-possible time.
It is founded upon the faith that there is but one Creator and sustaining God who manifests Himself in three personal revelations as our loving Father as Jesus Christ the Son and as the Holy Spirit.
We believe that our loving God calls us to love Him and others unconditionally.
We believe in the proclamation of God’s love through acts of mercy and justice to the poor. We believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word of loving the world through acts of salvation, mercy and justice.
We believe that just as God used ordinary people in the Bible to accomplish His mission of love so God uses ordinary people today to accomplish His mission of love by proclaiming the Good News of salvation through acts of mercy and justice for those whom society finds hard to love.
We believe that it takes a unified effort on the part of all God’s people for His love to be given to and seen in a broken and needy world.
GSA has developed critical programming to meet the needs of homeless people. Our Six Steps Stage Development Model assesses the needs of homeless people and attempts to engage them in accessing support services such as shelter, clothes, and food, financial and medical aid. The children of homeless parents are assisted in registering in nearby public schools.
Homelessness can have detrimental effects on children’s cognitive, emotional, physical and psychological development. Risk factors facing homeless children include poverty, family problems, parental loss, violence and drug use. Children may experience the loss of family members, friends and familiar neighborhoods; disruptions in school attendance; and exposure to strangers and threatening situations. All of these stressors increase a child’s risk for physical and mental health impairment.
Goals for the parents include understanding the basic development needs of children and how homelessness impacts those needs, learning techniques and strategies to meet their children’s needs, and developing the self-confidence and competence to make wise family decisions.
Goals for the children include providing a secure, nurturing place where children can express their emotions, providing opportunities for regaining self-worth and a sense of accomplishment, and developing strategies for children to communicate their needs to the adults in their lives.
The staff and volunteers of GSA believe in the power of selfless service, providing the homeless with an unconditional love. This love includes commitment and compassion to service the sick, abused, hurt, unloved and powerless. Unconditional love that flows freely is the simplest and purest of all acts.
We are a community of plenty.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
This year, the Good Shepherd Alliance asks every man, women and school child living in Northern Virginia to please be conscious of the poor that live among us. Be men and women of courage. Be strong in faith. Above all things do everything in love and please, once a month, once a week or even once a day, be a Good Samaritan!
If you are interested in learning more about the range and depth of the GSA mission, please call our Ashburn office at 703-724-1555 or email at email@example.com or visit our web site at www.goodshepherdalliance.org.
If anyone is interested in publishing a faith article on this web column, please contact Mark Gunderman at firstname.lastname@example.org.