What are the different definitions of homelessness?
There are two definitions widely used today and it’s important to note that the distinction between them is critical to Mobile Hope’s work and the children we serve.
The HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) definition is used to determine eligibility for Federal housing assistance (such as Section 8 or housing vouchers) while most communities and schools use the broader McKinney-Vento definition.
HUD Definition: A person is considered homeless only when he/she resides in one of the places described below:
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a(2)) definition:
The term “homeless children and youths”
(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence…; and
Why does it matter how we define homelessness?
Many of children Mobile Hope helps are homeless according to the McKinney-Vento definition but do NOT meet the HUD definition and therefore don’t qualify for Federal aid. This includes children who live with a relative, stay in a motel, live in a place that is not fit for living, or are wards of the State. The difference is clearly seen in cases where a parent and children are fleeing a domestic violence housing situation but they have no place to go and no resources to obtain housing.
Are there really homeless and at risk children and young adults in Loudoun?
Mobile Hope operates within McKinney Vento Assistance Act guidelines, which defines homelessness as: Individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, and children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason. These include those “couch surfing”, living in hotels, and yes…in cars.
Why was Mobile Hope created?
Mobile Hope was created to help fill a void in county services. Mobile Hope focuses on at-risk, homeless and precariously housed children and young adults, under the age of 24. The program is dedicated to improving the Social Determinants of Health. We offer a variety of services to assist this population, from food and personal care items and clothing to medical support and mentoring.
How do you differ from the Department of Family Services and CPS?
While we are a part of the community safety net, Mobile Hope is not a county government program. We offer services to some of the same clients, but focus solely on children and young adults 24 years of age and younger, who may have issues that can’t always be handled quickly.
How are you connected to other resources in the community?
Mobile Hope has worked very hard to ensure that we communicate and collaborate with many other community providers. Our safety-net community is made up of a variety of organizations that help to make up a complement of services.
Mobile Hope is planning to visit neighborhoods during the summer to help augment food availability and to help fill empty bellies. We are looking to provide food to children/youth by using our bus and by traveling to specific neighborhoods.
Mobile Hope met monthly with key partners to discuss issues and concerns, collaborating to fill gaps, understand issues and how to better serve this population. We also established The Struggling Youth Communications Task force to continue the conversation and create better resources, more effective communication, and referral patterns. We are working to make Loudoun County a leader when it comes to synergy and collaboration with our safety-net providers pertaining to precariously housed, homeless and at risk youth and young adults.
How do you identify the children that you serve as needing help?
Most of the children/young adults that receive services from Mobile Hope are referred to us by other organizations, such as other safety net and nonprofits, the school system, faith community, etc. We do, however, have several clients that are walk ins, or hear about Mobile Hope through word of mouth. Mobile Hope does work to qualify those that we serve, but we keep it simple… you must be a Loudoun County resident and 24 years of age or younger. It is very humbling to have to ask for help, so we work to make their registration process as easy as possible.
Do you turn anyone away from receiving your services?
While Mobile Hope’s mission is specifically focused on those in our community 24 years of age and younger, we often get requests for help from those over the age of 24. In keeping in line with the Department of Education, Mobile Hope recently increased our mission to include those up to the age of 24, as many young, single moms fall within this age range. If adults come to Mobile Hope seeking help, we help them with their immediate need and provide them a “passport to services” which lists organizations available to them.
Are all of the children that receive your services homeless?
Many of the children that we work to serve come from families that are simply struggling to make ends meet. We help children and young adults who are living in hotels, shelters, who are couch surfing or are doubled up with other families. Not every client is “literally” homeless, but every client we serve needs our help.
Is Mobile Hope a mandatory reporter to CPS and the Police?
Mobile Hope, like any other organization that deals with at risk or struggling children/youth is required by law to report any known or suspected abuse or neglect. Simply being poor or struggling does not warrant a call to CPS.
We take the safety and care of the children served very seriously. While we deal with a lot of children who are in homes that are struggling and are under the age of 18, we have only had to call CPS a few times in 5 years. According to the CPS Hotline, CPS does not need to be called if a child or young adult is couch surfing or living in a car with a parent unless there are signs of neglect, malnourishment, etc.
Do you help children who need to receive court appointed community service hours?
Yes, Mobile Hope has a great working relationship with those in the court system. We accept most children/young adults that need to complete court-appointed community service hours, on a case by case basis. We communicate with the offenders Probation or Parole officer to ensure we are working with all of the facts. We do not take any court appointed requests that occurred because of violence or harm to another.
How do you determine where the bus goes?
During the creation of Mobile Hope, we spoke with many organizations and community stake holders to determine where the Mobile Hope bus might have the most impact. We have, over the years, changed locations to ensure we are meeting the growing needs of those we serve. Currently, we have stops in Leesburg, Purcellville, St. Louis, Sterling, Leesburg, Lucketts and Dulles South. Since it is costly to run the bus, we reevaluate every few months to make sure our locations are impactful and maintain open lines of communication with community thought-leaders about new locations.
Are you still part of Inova?
Mobile Hope was created through Inova, but is now an independent 501c3 organization. Inova supports Mobile Hope’s efforts and donated our current mobile unit.
When do you accept donations?
Mobile Hope truly relies on the generosity of our community. We accept donations, Monday through Thursday, 9 to 4, Fridays, 9-12. We take pride in being able to offer clothes and supplies that our clients are proud to wear. Every item of clothing is looked over to ensure it is not only appropriate, but is in good condition. Since Mobile Hope does not charge for any of its services, the generosity of our community is vital to the overall success and sustainability of our program.
What types of donations do you need?
We take all donations that would be of benefit to children and young adults 24 years of age and younger. We are always in need of nonperishable food items. We take clothes (seasonal), personal hygiene items, books, school supplies, shoes, new socks and underwear, etc. If you have furniture, cars or household items, please call first, as we help young adults get and furnish apartments or who are in need of transportation. Of course, financial contributions are always accepted.
Is it true you want to build a Life skills facility?
Yes. Over the last 4 years we have realized there is a significant void in services and housing for those young adults 18 to 24 years of age. Due to this void, Mobile Hope is working to build a life skills facility that would not only offer a safe place to sleep, but also life skills and mentoring.
Who can volunteer?
On average we have over 500 volunteer hours a month, from youth groups and organizations, to members of the faith community and moms’ groups. One of our core values is to have everyone in our community take ownership and feel a true sense of helping us make a difference in our children’s lives. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us. One thing that is unique to Mobile Hope is the opportunity for some of our struggling kids to volunteer and create relationships with others in the community that they may never have had the opportunity to meet. Our clients have been seen folding clothes and laughing with a CEO or minister, teacher, principal or elected official.
How did you select your board and can I become a board member?
Mobile Hope truly believes that our program should be a community investment, as it truly does “take a village” to ensure these invisible children and young adults have the opportunities and support to overcome their hardships. We wanted our Board of Directors to be a great representation of our community and the thought leaders that help make up this great county. With that in mind, we selected members of the faith community, the school system, the community, first responders, our clients, etc. We get requests often from community members taking an interest in being an active member of our board. We often suggest that any interested individual contact us directly about their interest.
Where do you get your funding?
Mobile Hope supports our mission though fundraising efforts. From young children emptying their piggy bank to corporate social responsibility, Mobile Hope accepts donations from all willing to support our effort and mission. We are actively working to increase our funding base now that we are our own nonprofit.
What medical services do you offer?
Mobile Hope currently refers to medical organizations so our children/young adults can find a medical home or receive necessary services. Mobile Hope has physicians and dentists who are interested in providing services and we are working on getting a medical director to oversee our future medical services. Currently Mobile Hope works in partnership with Inova and LCPS to help assist our clients to get Medicaid coverage. We have established a Safe Sitter program and soon will work to add additional services.
Why help young adults who have created their own problems?
It is easy to assume that the children and young adults that come to Mobile Hope for help are troubled youth, however that is not always the case. Most of our clients live in survivor mode, whether at home or on their own. We do not judge any situation or person asking for help. Some of the stories that we’ve heard from our clients are not only sad, but horrific. More times than not, these kids have no control over their situation or the lives their parents have created for them. We’ve learned that what appears on the surface does not reflect what appears in the soul.
Why haven’t you done a large media push?
There’s a fine balance in working to increase awareness while protecting the privacy of our children and young adults. We are working on media plans, and public outreach to correct misinformation, promote our mission and attract supporters and volunteers.
Do you have a good relationship with the police and CPS?
Yes. Mobile Hope has worked hard to establish good and trusting relationships with members and organizations in Loudoun County.
What is the PIT survey and are you involved?
The Point in Time survey is conducted across the United States, one time each year, in the hopes of capturing the numbers of those that are homeless. Mobile Hope leaders have expressed concern about this survey as it does not truly identify children and young adults, particularly those doubled up with other families; couch surfing with friends; living in hotels, etc. Mobile Hope is a member of the parenting organization the Continuum of Care, and we work in partnership to help identify those that are homeless. It is our hope that all children/young adults living in difficult situations will be included and a true reflection of the numbers will be realized.