VIRGINIA

Loudoun County sees spike in homelessness

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Loudoun County is one of the wealthiest in the country. However, while many residents live in six figure households, another group lives with next to nothing.

A recent survey shows a five percent spike in homeless since 2011. Many are pointing the finger at the lack of affordable housing in Loudoun.

But, one non-profit is helping affected families get back on track.

Diana Mendoza, the manager of the Good Shepherd Alliance retail store, said, "Any given point, any given time...anybody can be homeless."

In 2009, Mendoz came face-to-face with that reality.

"I was living at my parent's house, my mother had passed away...we had to put the house up for sale. I could no longer take care of my father, and I just had a baby," Mendoza explained.

With her list of responsibilities growing, Mendoza turned to the Good Shepard Alliance for help.

The Loudoun County organization offers emergency and transitional housing for the homeless, as well as other outreach services.

Mendoza said, "It's a six step program, [which includes] maintaining yourself, clothing, food and shelter."

Right now, their facilities are full, and they usually stay that way. A fact that doesn't surprise Executive Director Vickie Koth. While Loudoun saw a five percent spike in homelessness, D.C. saw a spike of six percent, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments survey.

Angela Frye, a Good Shepard Alliance case manager, said the ongoing challenge for clients is finding an affordable place to stay.

"People are not able to find affordable housing, and they come to us, save up some money, but they don't have anywhere else to go after us," Frye said.

Koth added, "A two-bedroom apartment, you're looking at $1200."

Laid off from several jobs and with costs above her reach, one client, who asked not to be identified, lived in her car for months.

"I'm originally from South Carolina. I relocated to the D.C. metro area, it's been a year now and I've tried to find a job up here, but I couldn't find my footing with employment,

But, things are looking up for her and Mendoza, who now works at the Good Shepard Alliance retail store.

"It doesn't matter the richest county, the richest place where you're at...homeless is everywhere," Mendoza added.

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