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Peter’s Take: Strengthen Arlington’s Social Safety Net

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotDuring this holiday season, please consider making a contribution to an organization of your choice that helps those who struggle to survive in our community.

We read often about how many wealthy people live in Arlington, but perhaps not often enough about the needs of others who live here too.

During the past year, I’ve profiled two organizations that work hard to keep our social safety net strong: the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Arlington Free Clinic.

Today, let’s look at Arlington Thrive.

Arlington Thrive provides emergency financial assistance to county residents who experience sudden financial crises such as temporary unemployment or illness. Most clients are the working poor, elderly and disabled people on a fixed income, and the homeless and formerly homeless. In many cases, Arlington Thrive’s assistance prevents homelessness. Last year, 630 households that had received eviction notices were saved from becoming homeless.

Arlington Thrive’s clients are among Arlington County’s most vulnerable residents. Families with children are given the highest priority, and one-third of the individuals served by Arlington Thrive are children.

Arlington Thrive’s Daily Emergency Financial Assistance program employs trained volunteers who fulfill requests from Arlington County and private social service caseworkers on behalf of their clients. Some of the private organizations are Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), Doorways for Women and Children, the Alexandria-Arlington Coalition for the Homeless (AACH), and Northern Virginia Family Services. Arlington Thrive’s Carter-Jenkinson Housing Assistance program is used exclusively to prevent the eviction of families and individuals.

“Sharon” [not her real name] is an example of a client recently helped by Arlington Thrive. Sharon is a 57-year-old, single Arlington resident who had been economically self-sufficient all her adult life.  When her company downsized, she was laid off after 19 years at her job.  She is working with the Arlington Employment Center to find a new job, but has been unable to keep up with her bills while job-seeking.

When Sharon received disconnect notices for both her gas and electric services, Arlington Thrive paid these bills to keep her utilities connected.  She can now focus on finding employment and getting back on her feet.

You, or I, or someone we know could find ourselves in a situation like Sharon’s. If you can, please contribute to an organization that helps those in need.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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