Grant to Arlington Life Shelter will Serve Homeless Families

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James Mihills has noticed a shift in the city’s homeless population.

During the six years he has served on the Board of Directors for the Arlington Life Shelter, he has watched as more families sought help. Today, about half of the shelter’s clients are families.

“The face of homelessness has changed. Many years ago, people envisioned a single man panhandling on the street,” Mihills said. “In reality, a number of families have suffered due to a lack of affordable housing, loss of job, illness or other domestic situation.”

A grant from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation will help the 30-year-old shelter address the evolving homeless population.

The foundation has pledged $750,000 to help the Arlington Life Shelter build a second facility that will provide housing for eight homeless families, a secure, open-air playground, a commercial kitchen, expanded dining room and an employment services lab with interview space.

Earlier this year, Arlington Life Shelter launched a capital campaign to raise $4.2 million for the new facility. So far, the shelter has raised roughly half the money.

Jim Reeder, Capital Campaign Manager, said the new facility will help the Arlington Life Shelter meet its mission. The project will increase the shelter’s square footage from 13,000 to 27,000, and its capacity from 80 to 120 people a night.

“We want to return families to self-sufficiency as soon as possible,” he said. “We help them get back on their feet, so they can take care of themselves and their loved ones.”

A typical stay at the Arlington Life Shelter is about three months, Reeder said. New amenities like the playground and an expanded children’s clubhouse will help children navigate this transition while their parents look for a job. The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation will have naming rights for the new playground.

“When kids come here, they have lost a sense of normalcy,” he said. “We want to give them to the opportunity to play, blow off some steam and have a little stability during a tough situation.”

Arlington Life Shelter hopes to break ground on the new project in spring 2018. Construction will likely last about a year.

The donation by the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation played a critical role in showing potential donors that the community supported the expanded shelter, Reeder said.

“The donation from the Arlington Life Shelter has been instrumental in working with donors and other foundations,” Reeder said. “Homelessness is a community-wide problem, and we are fortunate to have the community’s support.”

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