Action in Community Through Service will begin running the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center on Oct. 1, taking over from Volunteers of America Chesapeake which had managed it since it opened 22 years ago.
“We are excited and we are ready,” said Frances Harris, executive director of ACTS. “We will put the ACTS stamp on it. We want to make sure it is a comfortable place, friendly and has an atmosphere of support to the people.
“The Hilda Barg shelter will become part of the ACTS organizations. We want everyone to feel connected to what we do here,” Harris said. “It’s a county facility, but the staff will be ACTS staff. The philosophy will be ACTS philosophy.
“I think that is one of the reasons we got the contract. We showed we wanted to provide services to people. We showed we know what you are doing and do it well,” she said.
As Volunteers of America’s service contract was about to expire, Prince William County’s Department of Social Services put out a request for proposals.
ACTS was awarded the contract for $444,237, with the county responsible for $419,237. The $25,000 difference is from individual donors.
“The county shall have the option to extend the contract for five additional one-year periods, contingent upon availability of funds for the purpose. The option to renew shall be exercised at the sole discretion of the county,” said county spokesman Jason Grant in an email.
“ACTS is a long-time partner with Prince William County, and has a wealth of experience working with the homeless and transitional housing population here in the community,” said DSS Director Janine Sewell in a news release. “They presented a strong proposal during our RFP process, and we fully expect that the Hilda M. Barg Shelter will continue to help those within our community in need of temporary shelter.”
“With the services we already provide and for continuity, we felt we would be the best agency for the job,” Harris said of ACTS reason to bid on the contract. “We are at a point in the growth of our agency, that we just felt we needed to do this.”
ACT has run shelters in the county since the early 1980s. It has an emergency shelter with 18 beds in Dumfries as well as two domestic violence shelters with 15 and 17 beds. The Dumfries shelter is temporarily closed due to water damage in the spring.
“With the Hilda Barg shelter, we will be running 86 beds,” Harris said. “With our other programs – domestic violence, sexual assault, our food pantry and our emergency assistance – we have a good solid base to help people move on,” Harris said.
Current shelter employees are invited to apply with ACTS for their positions. Because of specifics in the contract, some of the jobs will be a little different and not all the programs will be continued at the beginning, Harris said.
Current Volunteers of America staff has been handing out fliers in the community stating it discontinued its Community Outreach, Street Outreach, Veterans Outreach and the After Care programs on Sept. 14 and that the new provider “has elected not to continue the programs.”
“We felt obligated to inform our clients – our most vulnerable neighbors – that these services will no longer be provided through current staff,” said Danielle Milner, spokeswoman for Volunteers of America Chesapeake.
Harris said the community outreach component was not a part of the county’s request for proposals.
“Those were VOA programs. Until we get in there and see the lay of the land, those are suspended at this point,” Harris said. “Our main focus is to work with the residents in the shelter. The After Care is for people who have been in the shelter and get resources afterwards. We are waiting to set up our protocols first but we will probably have something similar to that.”
“I think they will do a good job and I hope to be supportive of them,” said Gayle Sanders, who was the director of the shelter since it opened. Sanders retired earlier this year.
“Clients have thanked us for our service over the last 22 years and were appreciative that many Volunteers of America Chesapeake services will continue within Prince William County, including our Rapid Re-housing Program, partnership with Cooperative Council of Ministries and Northern Virginia Family Service,” Milner said.
Volunteers of America Chesapeake also run a homeless shelter in Leesburg.