Report: Striking Increase in Arlington Residents Seeking Assistance – The Connection Newspapers – March 2, 2016
Arlington safety-net report draws a crowd.
According to the US Census Bureau, more than 17,000 Arlington residents are living at or below the Federal poverty level of $24,250 for a household of four.
“That’s a conservative estimate,” said Anne Vor de Bruegge, report author and director of the Marymount Nonprofit Resource Center. “A more realistic one, called ‘The Virginia Poverty Measure,’ estimates that there are over 26,000 individuals in Arlington living in poverty. These are the working poor, the disabled, seniors living on fixed incomes and veterans.”
More than 100 community members convened at Arlington’s Central Library on Feb. 1 to hear a report on the work of 14 Arlington “safety-net” nonprofits that provide basic necessities for Arlington residents like these. The report, “Arlington’s Safety-Net Nonprofits: Advancing the Common Good,” was produced by the Marymount University Nonprofit Resource Center in partnership with the Arlington Community Foundation.
“One reason we did this report is that the vulnerable residents of Arlington are often obscured by the wealth most people see around them here,” said Vor de Bruegge. “But these are real numbers with real human beings behind them. And ‘these people’ are as much a valuable part of being an authentic community as anyone else.”
According to the report, in FY2015, demands are increasing: the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) saw an increase in demand for food of 19.4% over the previous year, which itself saw a 26% increase over the prior year. Recent cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) have forced even more families to seek help.
The Marymount University Nonprofit Resource Center in Partnership with the Arlington Community Foundation Center, sometimes called the Nonprofit Center, was created in late 2014 to educate the public on pressing community needs and to support Arlington’s nonprofits in meeting those needs.
The report highlighted the cost-effectiveness of the safety-net non-profits. They provide high-quality affordable services by leveraging donated goods and services and attracting corporate, philanthropic and public funds. In the past year, for example, Arlington Free Clinic provided ongoing medical care to more than 1,600 uninsured community members by coordinating the services of 500 volunteers and accessing several million dollars in donated medications.
The organizations multiply their impact through strategic collaboration with each other and in public-private partnerships with Arlington County. Each organization focuses on what it does best while ensuring that clients access additional services they need from other organizations. For example, Doorways for Women and Children partners with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to help victims of domestic violence find safe housing while working with the victims to build their self-sufficiency and heal from the trauma of abuse.