Suffolk House celebrates one year

Published 10:37 pm Saturday, November 21, 2009

Felecia Roy, 39, has only been staying at the ForKids Suffolk House shelter for two weeks.

However, she already sees the results of the last full year of dedication its employees and volunteers have invested, she said.

“They accepted me with open arms, with a true heart and with love and respect,” Roy said. Roy had an apartment and a “nice paying job” in Newport News, until she lost her job because of an allergy to the chemicals she was required to work with.

She subsequently lost her apartment, and was unable to find another job. She jumped from house to motel before winding up at Suffolk House.

“They help my spirit to lift,” Roy said. “ForKids is really caring for people. They make you feel like somebody.”

Those words are exactly what Executive Director Thaler McCormick likes to hear.

“It has been an unexpected last 18 months, but it’s really nice to be here,” McCormick said Friday. The board of the former Center for Hope and New Beginnings approached ForKids in spring 2008 for help, and an asset transfer was approved last November.

ForKids held an open house Friday to celebrate its one-year anniversary of serving Western Tidewater.

“We just thought it would be appropriate to reintroduce ourselves to the community,” said Serena Amerson, director of development for ForKids. “There’s a tremendous need in the community regarding family homelessness.”

Amerson and McCormick said adjusting to preventing rural homelessness has been a challenge over the past year. ForKids’ other facilities are located in Norfolk. The lack of a good public transportation system in Suffolk has affected operations, Amerson said.

On the other hand, McCormick noted, community members in Norfolk rarely show up at the door with baskets of homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Stabilizing the shelter also has provide a challenge, McCormick noted.

“We have worked very hard over the last year to stabilize the shelter and bring it to a new level,” McCormick said.

Suffolk House has 34 beds in dorm-style rooms that can house families and single women. Clients can stay up to four months while addressing crisis needs. Meanwhile, a host of services are provided to the clients, including help with job hunts and transportation, adult education, children’s mentoring, tutoring and therapy, and the ability to earn vouchers to “buy” donated clothing items.

Though McCormick declared Suffolk House’s first year a success, the ultimate goal is to prevent homelessness to the point where shelters are not needed, she said.

“We must make this building unnecessary,” McCormick told the crowd of supporters, volunteers and clients. “This really should become unnecessary.”

Felecia Roy, the Suffolk House client, said the shelter has made a positive impact on her life.

“I’m like Martin Luther King,” she said. “I have a dream.”

For more information, call 934-1353 or visit www.homesforkids.org.