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Arlington Thrive

Emergency financial funds for Arlington neighbors in need

Provides same-day emergency financial assistance to Arlington residents who are in crisis and cannot pay bills for housing, utilities, medical/dental care, prescriptions and transportation. Arlington Thrive's assistance can prevent homelessness.

Why should I support your work?

Arlington’s low-income households encounter the most dire affordability challenges and often face difficult choices when it comes to paying for housing. Many low-income households spend less on food, transportation, utilities and other necessities in order to cover housing costs. (Arlington Affordable Housing Study, 2014 Report)

The high cost of housing combined with stagnant wage growth results in many low income workers and their households living paycheck to paycheck in Arlington. Even in relatively prosperous Arlington, increased housing costs are having a big impact on low to moderate income residents. Despite its relative affluence and low unemployment rate, Arlington has a vulnerable population that can be adversely affected by even a minor emergency. In these circumstances, a minor emergency can result in a short-term crisis, which can quickly spiral out of control unless same-day emergency assistance is provided.

Arlington Thrive provides “just enough emergency financial assistance at just the right time” to Arlington residents who are in a financial crisis and, by doing so, helps prevent more serious and costly consequences, such as eviction or job loss due to an untreated medical condition.

With our emergency financial assistance, social workers can better help their clients work towards economic self-sufficiency. Arlington Thrive prevents eviction and homelessness before it begins. This results in reduced economic and emotional costs to Arlington individuals and families.

Anita Friedman, Director of the Arlington Department of Human Services, stated that "Arlington Thrive's emergency financial assistance programs play a critical role in preventing homelessness in Arlington's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness and in many cases prevents the eviction of families."

This past year, Arlington Thrive was once again voted one of Washington D.C.’s best small charities by the Catalogue for Philanthropy, Greater Washington. Finally, Arlington Thrive is proud to have received the GuideStar Seal of Approval and multiple 5-Star Reviews from Great Nonprofits.

Why does your charity exist?

Although Arlington is recognized as a world-class community, there is still a gap in opportunities and resources for persons who are homeless and those close to homelessness.

Several populations face particular challenges in Arlington when it comes to being able to afford housing. For example, Arlington seniors face higher housing cost burdens compared to households headed by younger individuals. Households headed by racial or ethnic minorities are much more likely to face housing affordability challenges than their white counterparts. For example, almost half of African American households and more then half of Hispanic households who rent in Arlington are cost burdened – having to pay too much of their incomes for housing. Arlington families with children, especially single-parent families, are more likely to face higher costs compared to other households.

Arlington Thrive continues to face both increased demand for our services and funding constraints on our ability to deliver same-day emergency financial assistance to residents facing short-term crisis, including many who are facing eviction and homelessness. Every day, emergency assistance requests go unfilled because Thrive does not have the funds to meet these needs. As a result, Arlington County's most needy and vulnerable residents who require emergency assistance to avert a housing or health crisis are turned away each day because the Daily Fund has reached the $1400 limit.

Arlington Thrive’s future plans include continued work to expand our funding base so we can increase the amount of daily emergency financial assistance we can provide to our clients.

What specifically do you do?

Arlington Thrive delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, so they can be secure in their jobs, health and homes and thrive in a caring community. Arlington Thrive envisions an Arlington community where all have homes, are financially stable and thrive.  

Since 1975, Arlington Thrive has provided same-day emergency financial assistance to Arlington County residents who experience sudden financial crises that make it impossible for them to pay their rent, utilities, medical or dental bills, prescriptions costs or other basic needs. The Daily Fund was Arlington Thrive’s first program and continues to be its flagship program.

Each weekday, Arlington Thrive volunteers take and approve requests from social workers from Arlington County and private social service organizations on behalf of their clients. The volunteer follows established guidelines for granting assistance and can approve requests totaling $1400 each weekday. Checks are made out directly to the creditor, e.g. landlord, medical provider or utility and distributed by a part-time staff member at a lobby station of the Arlington County Department of Human Services on the same day they are requested and approved.

Assessment of a request considers whether one-time assistance is sufficient to end the client's current crisis. Referring social workers will determine if the client needs other help, e.g., credit repair and counseling, to prevent non-payment of rent or other bills in the near term.

Assistance may be denied if it is clear that one-time help will not end the client's crisis and restore him or her back to economic independence. The client's social worker will then suggest remedies other than emergency financial assistance. Arlington Thrive limits rent and utility assistance to $1,500 per client per year.

How will this make a difference?

Arlington has made great strides in its concerted effort to prevent and end homelessness. The 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Arlington was launched in 2008 and is governed by the Arlington County Consortium (ACC) of more than 100 stakeholders from public, private and faith-based community organizations. The Plan’s primary goal is “No individual or family shall lack access to decent, affordable housing.” 

Arlington Thrive’s programs are a key component of Arlington's Plan to End Homelessness and follow the principle of "Housing First." Under this principle, people at risk of homelessness are far more likely to be successful in retaining their employment, income level and stability if they are housed or remain in their homes. According to Arlington’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, “Homeless families in Arlington, many of them made up of mothers with small children, use up to $100,000 of service dollars per family, per year. This includes the cost of providing foster care and other intensive child welfare services where children must be cared for apart from their parents.” By allowing families to stay in their homes, these families are in a better position to deal with the root causes of the crises they are facing and prevent reoccurrence.

A 2009 JAMA study estimates it costs communities up to $45,000 to provide care to someone on the streets, compared to only $22,000 when they’re housed.  Further, in a recent groundbreaking new study, the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame revealed that when homeless prevention funds are available, an individual’s chance of becoming homeless within six months is reduced by 65 percent. The study, done in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and All Chicago, is the first of its kind in the nation and found that homeless prevention programs dramatically decreased the likelihood of families entering a homeless shelter.

In the last five years, the number of individuals residing in shelters or on the streets has been reduced by more than half. (Arlington County 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, FY2015 Annual Report).  Moreover, results from the 2015 Point-in-Time Count show an 18 percent decline in Arlington’s homeless population since 2014 and a 34 percent drop in homeless families in Arlington (Point-in-Time Count, January 28-29, 2015).

Yet challenges still remain and there is still more work to be done.  Last year, more than 1,000 households sought assistance finding or keeping a home and on any given night, nearly 240 were in shelters or on the streets. And continued increases in housing costs, as well as flat or declining incomes among some groups, have caused housing affordability in Arlington County to greatly decrease over the past 12 years.

Arlington Thrive must continue to be a safety-net to Arlington’s most vulnerable residents and provide same-day emergency financial assistance when they face a short-term crisis.

What have you accomplished?

Arlington Thrive’s impact is both immediate and significant. Last year, Arlington Thrive programs:

  • Provided $735,518 in direct financial assistance to 1,352 households (unduplicated count).
  • Served 2,361 persons, including 1,445 adults and 916 children.
  • Prevented the eviction of 326 Arlington households. Most of those households were families with children.

One such client who has agreed to share her story is Denise Jade Hlavaty. She sent Arlington Thrive a small donation last year to show her appreciation. 

"One year after I had moved to Arlington, and while I was not yet established in the community, I was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer. I was unemployed, uninsurable and trying my best just to keep my head above water. Two months after completing my cancer treatment, and after an exhaustive job search, I was hired for a position at the Department of Defense in July 2012.

Unfortunately, my August rent was due before my first paycheck would be issued. I was already working, but I still needed help. I didn't have family that I could ask to help me unfortunately. Virginia Hospital Center referred me to Arlington County Department of Human Services and Arlington Thrive, who were able to pay my rent that month. With just that initial assistance, I was able to get back on my feet. It made an immediate impact, and I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of Arlington Thrive's donors.


How can I be sure you’ll use my money wisely?

Arlington Thrive is a critical and necessary component of Arlington’s safety net programs because it provides the vital financial resources that Arlington social workers require in order to provide for their clients’ emergency needs. With our aid, these social workers can better help their clients work towards economic self-sufficiency. We offer an at-risk individual or family just enough assistance at just the right time to stop a crisis from becoming a catastrophe. 

Arlington Thrive works in collaboration with government and private social service agencies and relies on them to provide both the assessment of true need for emergency assistance and case management of clients. There is no duplication of casework so our focus is on raising and disbursing needed funds.

Through this collaboration, 91 cents of each dollar goes directly to financial assistance.

The Arlington Thrive Executive Director, Volunteers and Program Manager are familiar with the individuals who work at our referring agencies. These collegial relations, developed over many years, enable our staff, volunteers and board members to work from a position of strength and credibility.

Arlington Thrive operates all of our programs with a full-time Executive Director; a half-time Program Manager  and less-than-full-time Director of Development and Operations Manager. A dedicated group of 30 volunteers process assistance requests from social workers.

Any Arlington County resident is eligible for assistance if referred by a social worker. Our clients are among Arlington County’s most vulnerable residents—the working poor, elderly and disabled people on a fixed income, and the homeless and formerly homeless who need Arlington Thrive’s funds as a “safety net” until they are able to get back on firmer financial footing. Families with children are given the highest priority, and one-third of the individuals served by Arlington Thrive are children.