A place to call home
A local, non-profit that was started 29 years ago, Miriam’s House works to eliminate homelessness among families and individuals in Lynchburg. First begun in the 90s, the organization served 11 families at a time predominantly through the organization’s namesake home that is still located on Magnolia Street.
Now, the 14 staff member organization provides a wider range of interventions and wrap around supports while remaining committed to its mission of, “ending homelessness by connecting individuals and families with stable, affordable housing and providing the skills and supports that lead to self-sufficiency.” During the first half of this year alone, Miriam’s House has provided housing for 216 individuals, 119 of whom are children.
There are four main principles that guide Miriam’s House’s operations and services:
In the past addressing homelessness had often taken an approach similar to substance abuse recovery which would include a multi-part plan that assumed the homelessness stemmed from a personal flaw. The aftermath of the 2008 recession brought about a paradigm shift across the nation, revealing that homelessness is often the result of economic factors rather than personal shortcomings. This led to a transition in thought regarding how to best address homelessness while still prioritizing the belief that everyone does better if they’re stably housed. By championing the approach of “housing first,” Miriam's House continues to reinforce the notion that everyone deserves a secure place to call home.
The second principle that informs Miriam’s House’s approach is empowerment. This means that the staff at Miriam’s House view each individual as the expert on their own life and their choices are honored. This principle is a continuation of treating every individual with dignity by listening to their desires and seeking to honor those desires whenever possible.
Sarah Quarantotto, Miriam House’s Executive Director, shared one example of how they were able to empower an individual named George who had lived outside for many years and consequently adopted two cats. He was hesitant to move into an apartment because he was fearful* that his landlord would not allow him to keep the animals. However, the Miriam’s House staff understood how important it was to George to live in a place where he could continue caring for his cats and because they understood this desire, they were able to find him stable, pet-friendly housing.
Through support initiatives, Miriam’s House staff carry out the idea that people need “housing first, but not housing only.” To this end, their Housing Case Management Team works hand in hand with clients, addressing the multifaceted challenges that could jeopardize their housing stability. This can look like connecting individuals with helpful resources, making sure they have a primary care provider and offering a monthly support group to build community among those they serve. Building community leads to the last principle that guides Miriam House’s services–community.
Miriam’s House staff recognize that as an organization they will never be able to meet every individual’s needs. Rather they understand that individuals and families building relationships with those they live in proximity to is invaluable. This means connecting clients with their neighbors, faith communities, and local community centers with the ultimate goal of connecting them with the things that will holistically enrich their lives.
When asked to share a favorite story of impact, Sarah said, “Once a week, there is a family or individual who is homeless or in a shelter who we’re bringing stable housing, and every time it’s so gratifying.”
She went on to share how Miriam’s House was recently able to help move a mother and her three children to stable housing from a shelter before the school year began, and these kids having a place to call home before they begin the school year is vital for their academic success.
Centra has been able to partner with Miriam’s House in numerous ways over the years to work to promote a healthy community. One example of this ongoing partnership comes from 2020 when Centra’s Transport Teams helped to properly transport homeless individuals who had COVID-19 to hotels where they could safely self-isolate. Sarah explained that fortunately the spread of the virus among homeless individuals in Lynchburg was minimized through these efforts that would not have been possible without the partnership.
While Miriam's House has evolved over nearly three decades, their core mission remains steadfast: serving homeless families. In the heart of Lynchburg, Miriam's House stands as a symbol of hope, empowerment, support, and community. As they continue to work towards the elimination of homelessness, they illuminate the path towards a brighter future, where every individual and family has a place to call home.