Suffolk shelter to close

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shelter: The ForKids organization announced Thursday it will close its Suffolk House shelter on Finney Avenue, instead running assistance programs from the building.

The ForKids organization announced Thursday it will close its Suffolk House emergency shelter, instead operating a rapid re-housing and prevention program from the building to serve Western Tidewater.

The organization has seen a sharp decrease in government and institutional funding to run the shelter, ForKids executive director Thaler McCormick said Thursday. It also realized a need to change its service model, which was attempting to help residents throughout Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties from its building on Finney Avenue in downtown Suffolk.

“I’m excited about the new direction,” McCormick said. “I think this is going to be a good solution for the families of Western Tidewater.”

Email newsletter signup

McCormick said that trying to serve such a large service area — nearly 1,400 square miles — without an extensive public transportation system was a hurdle.

“This community is very different from Norfolk,” where ForKids is based, McCormick said. “It’s taken a couple of years for us to get to this place and come to this conclusion.”

ForKids began operating the Suffolk shelter in October 2008 when it merged with the troubled Center for Hope and New Beginnings, which formerly operated the building.

Some staff still will work from Suffolk House, while the residential portion of the building will be closed off to save money. The organization is looking into options for its re-use, McCormick said, the most likely of which is providing permanent supportive housing for disabled homeless people — a service which is sorely needed in the area, she said.

Meanwhile, homeless families in Western Tidewater will be served through a hotel voucher program for up to 30 days of shelter. This option ensures they can stay near their jobs, schools and support networks, McCormick said.

Families who still have a home, but are in danger of losing it, will be assisted with utilities and rent, while those who have recently become homeless will be helped with security deposits. These options are available only to families that are employed, McCormick said.

“We need for families to be able to sustain the housing,” McCormick said.

In addition, the organization will continue its case management services for all families, which include classes in budgeting, parenting, life skills and more. Mental health services and children’s services such as tutoring and counseling will be delivered throughout the region by a mobile team.

McCormick said the organization will watch its money flow carefully to ensure it can maintain services throughout the year.

“We may come to a point where we are limited in our budget,” she said. “This model will certainly be limited in the number of families that we can provide services to.”

Families currently living at Suffolk House are receiving transitional services to help them move into permanent housing by July 1, McCormick said.

ForKids also operates several other short- and long-term housing facilities, mostly in Norfolk.