The Good Shepherd Alliance is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote self-sufficiency and empowerment in the Northern Virginia area. They do this by teaching those who are suffering from homelessness and poverty and helping them to realize their individual assets as well as the assets in the community. The Good Shepherd Alliance has been in the Northern Virginia community for more than 20 years and currently operates a number of programs and services for those suffering from poverty and homelessness. Their services include emergency and supportive housing, workforce and youth development, case management, crisis services, counseling, advocacy and community outreach.
The Alliance has received local, state and national recognition for its work with these special populations, including being featured in several dozen local, regional and national media outlets. Most recently, the Alliance was named the first “Shelter of Promise” in the United States by America’s Promise for its work in providing a safe environment for children and families. The National YMCA, one of only two in the state of Virginia, also named them a National Safe Place. In addition, the Alliance has been recognized as a national model in delivering services to the homeless and those living in poverty from such organizations as the Congressional Hunger Center, Civic Practices Network, Institute for Children and Poverty and the University of Massachusetts.
They identify this need through a variety of avenues and will continue to do so through a collaboration with four organizations: the Institute for Children and Poverty, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the Union Seminary at Columbia University and the National Association of Community Action Agencies. These organizations are helping the Alliance to promote community dialogues called Dialogues on Poverty. These conversations bring community citizens together to promote action on behalf of those in transition and homeless. They have a lasting impact on the community, while in the short-term bringing these issues to the forefront of the community’s consciousness.
In 2003, the Alliance worked with more than 1,500 individuals and/or families through the various programs and services. Internally, the organization makes a commitment to having former homeless guests or former program participants on all levels of the organization’s leadership, including the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board. The Alliance continually acts as a beacon to the community for those that are often unheard. Most of the staff were formerly homeless, and this allows the organizations to help the guests obtain their goals in real ways.
Part of the programming includes an avenue for all program participants to volunteer or give back. The Alliance views civic engagement as an avenue to develop a deeper sense of community belonging, giving the low-income and homeless community members roots and a voice in the community. Often times, chronic homelessness is perpetuated by not giving those suffering a sense of community belonging. The Good Shepherd Alliance develops stronger community roots by empowering individuals to have a voice in the direction of the community for which they live. This has spawned various grassroots efforts by the homeless, including a voter registration drive and a homeless arts initiative.