Founded in 1998, LifeStyles of Maryland works to increase the quality of life for individuals and their families struggling with poverty and homelessness. Guided by the idea of “service through service”, the organization works to increase the quality of life for so many through the programs and resources they provide. We caught up with the organization’s Executive Director, Sandy Washington, for this week’s Friday Focus.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).
A: LifeStyles is a compassionate care center that provides a multitude of services for those that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. These services range from basic safety net needs like food and clothing to self-sustaining services: shelter/housing, transportation, free tax preparation, homeless prevention and re-housing services. LifeStyles believes in serving as a one-stop-shop of resources to assist those in need with what they need, or to connect them with other services that are available.
Our staff and volunteers are members of the community and serve as advocates for those that are less fortunate. Not only do we provide needed services, but we assist persons in receiving services from other agencies, and many times walking them through the process of receiving much-needed benefits.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: One of my favorite “moments” is when we had a veteran single mother of a three year old who had suffered a domestic violence incident and was brought to our office. During the time that we have worked with her, we have provided her with housing, assisted her in obtaining public service benefits, and now have received a Veterans Administration Subsidized Housing (VASH) voucher through the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration and will be transitioning into her own place. She is now receiving counseling services, and is in a more stable place to handle being on her own.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Our biggest challenge is raising sufficient financial resources to serve the growing needs of the community. The organization had to move when the building we operated from was sold. Since our move in October 2013, our new office facilities have accommodated three times the number of clients we served previously. Those that are homeless and come to receive day services (i.e., showers, mail, laundry, food and clothing), and those that are suffering from the emergency needs of maintaining or receiving housing and transportation services would experience a significant gap if we were not here. Since our move, we have had increased operational costs to include increased rent and utility costs that have made it challenging to maintain a quality level of service. Our “Safe Nights” program has had a historically high number of participants, as high as 52 persons per night. With the increased number of participants, it has increased our fuel costs of transporting persons to and from the shelter host site, depleted our VanGO ticket inventory and has caused a need for an increased amount of staff to be on site.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
A: Our annual “Walk to End Homelessness” is Saturday, November 15 at the La Plata Town Hall. This event supports our “Safe Nights” homeless shelter program. Registration usually begins in September and allows for individual and group registration online.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: There are multiple ways that people can get involved with our organization. We welcome volunteers to assist in the following ways: provide donations of food or gently used clothing or assist with the distribution of those items; provide “anytime meal lunches” for persons who don’t have access to cooking facilities; provide administrative support; assist as a volunteer case worker or care coordinator; serve as a volunteer tax preparer; and assist with financial donations for persons in need of homeless prevention services. They can contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Denise Hawkins, for more volunteer opportunities: 301-609-9900 ext. 210, email@example.com.