This past Saturday, Case Design/Remodeling teamed up with the Falls Church non-profit Homestretch, an organization that seeks to address the issue of homelessness in the community, to redesign three kitchens in Homestretch housing facilities. The build began at 8 a.m. that day and by the end of the day, the three families whose kitchens were selected for remodeling returned home to three newly renovated kitchens.
Senior Vice-President of Case Design/Remodeling Jan Shaut explained that Case has teamed up with Homestretch for approximately the last two years to provide these kinds of pro-bono renovations for families in the Homestretch program. She said Case couldn’t be happier to be involved with this cause.
“The reason we got involved in doing kitchens with Homestretch was because we really like giving back to our community,” Shaut said. “We feel very aligned with the Homestretch organization, and we find it very rewarding to give back to the community with something that we’re passionate about, which is construction.”
According to Shaut, chosen kitchens are generally in serious need of repair. Her company remodels each one, furnishing the spaces with new cabinets, countertops, faucets, sinks and garbage disposals. Case also thoroughly cleans all of the appliances. The result is a nearly brand new kitchen for each client, provided by the company free of charge.
Shaut said the reaction the company has received has been overwhelming, and that people are very appreciative of the work that they receive.
“They are so grateful,” Shaut said. “They are just so grateful, they send us pictures of their family standing in the kitchen, and write us all these thank you notes. It means the world to them and it gives them just one more boost of confidence that they have a shot in this world.”
Homestretch was established in 1990 to address the issue of homelessness in Fairfax County.
“The mission of Homestretch is to empower homeless families to secure permanent housing and to obtain the skills, knowledge, and hope that they need to achieve self-sufficiency,” Christopher Fay, president of Homestretch, said.
Fay explained that the first day a family enters the program, they receive a key to an apartment and from there, over a period of two years, the goal of the program is to help people gain the skills they need to succeed, providing them with the services and resources necessary to provide for themselves.
However, as Fay points out, housing every client is the primary focus of the program, and each year the program houses over 100 families in Homestretch apartment units. Because of the difficulty of up-keeping so many units in order to provide safe homes for these families, the units are not always in the best of condition, which is why Fay said he is pleased that Homestretch and Case Design have been able to team up on this kitchen remodel initiative, in order to make the units that are in the worst condition a nicer place for people to live.
“There’s a lot of wear and tear on the properties and to be able to have an organization like Case Design come in and replace a kitchen for us is just an amazing value and just a tremendous asset to us and it makes the families who are in those units very, very happy,” Fay said.
Fay explained that projects like these kitchen builds can be have a positive influence on the families who receive the renovation.
“Oh, they love it. You know, a lot of them have been through such hard times that they have despair and they start to think that nothing good will ever happen to them again. … Not only is this another chance at a new life, but you’re going to be able to do it in a nice place and know that there are people who care about you,” Fay said.
One client, Dawn Cio, who was selected to have her kitchen remodeled, said that both Homestretch and Case have had an incredible impact on her life.
“[Homestretch] has shown me a new way of life and it gave me the motivation to want to live,” Cio said. “It has provided a safe home for my children and for that I am very grateful. Before this, I’ve never had a home and to have a new kitchen is like one of the best gifts I could ask for.”
Fay pointed out that the focus of this project is not just the kitchen renovations but to make people aware of how significant an issue homelessness is in our community and to encourage them to reach out and get involved.
“We know we treat a problem that is sometimes invisible to the larger community. I don’t think that most people are aware that there are more than 3,000 homeless people in Fairfax County alone, because we don’t tend to acknowledge these people because we don’t tend to see them,” Fay said.
Initiatives such as this kitchen build slowly break down the barriers and the obstacles that homeless people have to overcome every day to regain some semblance of a normal life. Homelessness, as Fay points out, is not a state of being that needs to be permanent.
“The other thing I can say is that homelessness can be solved. We see it every day. Homelessness does not need to be something that we just need to accept. It can be changed given the right resources and the right time and energy,” Fay said.
To learn more about homelessness in Fairfax County and Homestretch’s community initiatives, visit homestretch-inc.org.