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For the past few days we’ve all been preparing our households for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. You’d be hard-pressed to find water bottles at any grocery store in the DMV area. While everyone has been out collecting storm supplies, our team at Carpenter’s Shelter has been pulling together an emergency plan for the homeless of Alexandria.

Every year starting on November 1st we open our winter shelter from 7pm-7am to those needing a warm place to sleep, away from the icy chill of winter. With Sandy predicted to rock the DC area with strong winds and heavy rainfall, our winter shelter staff made the decision to open four days early.

Sunday Oct 28, Winter Shelter opened its doors to all homeless individuals seeking shelter from the storm. We will remain open until tuesday afternoon, and possibly longer, depending on the severity of the storm.

Stay safe during hurricane sandy! Please consider donating your left over storm supplies to Carpenter’s Shelter after the storm has passed including: water bottles, canned food, batteries, umbrellas, ponchos and flashlights. We are not able to accept perishable foods.

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As a staff member at Carpenter’s we stare poverty in the face every day, but few of us actually know what it feels like to experience poverty first hand. Last week, one of the staff members brought up the SNAP challenge. In a world of too much, two of our senior staff members decided to step up and take the challenge.

Yesterday was the first day of the SNAP Challenge for Executive Director Lissette and her family as well as Director of Development Kelly and her husband. What have they learned so far? In her own words,Lissette shares an important lesson her family learned after their first day on the SNAP Challenge, it’s not fair!

Last week a staff member heard that The Women’s Foundation staff was participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. An exercise organized by D.C. Hunger Solutions, the challenge aims to educate the public and raise awareness of the benefits of food stamps and the challenges recipients face while eating on a very limited budget.

The concept caught on at Carpenter’s – this week we’re taking the challenge! It didn’t take but two minutes for me to commit my entire family to the exercise. I thought of the budgeting lessons my children would learn at the grocery store. The discussions at the dinner table and the bigger lesson we would all learn. Cooking healthy and diabetic friendly would add a twist to my test. Bring it on!

The reaction at home? Not exactly the same enthusiasm I brought to the project.

My husband had a lot of questions. Primarily, he was looking to find the loop holes in the challenge. “What about when there is a vendor sponsored lunch at work?” “What about if I have a lunch meeting?” “What about the food we purchased last week that’s going to go bad?”

My kids learned they would have to eat breakfast and lunch at school all week. If we were receiving SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps), my children would qualify for free or reduced lunch at school.

“Oh no, that’s terrible! The food at school is gross!” My daughter added the colorful, “School food makes me have bad poops, yuk!”

I was not going to be swayed. I had committed us and we were all in it together. Here’s a peek into my food stamp world dialogue:.

Day 1 – Scene 1 – Conversations from the aisles of Giant
  • “Oh so, this is like a puzzle?” I like puzzles.”
  • “Seriously, we can only get Daddy’s granola bars? That’s not fair!”
  • “No snack food or dessert! That’s not fair!”
  • “Oh my God, Mom – We did it! We got all that food for $116! Can I keep the calculator?”

Day1 – Scene 2 – A Play by Play…It’s all about the food
Monday morning – I prepare my husband’s lunch, the kids are eating at school, I’m already running late… just coffee for breakfast and a very poorly thought out lunch – some lunch meat and crackers. By 11 a.m. I’m ready to chew my arm off.

In the car, driving away from the school – “We’re starving, what’s for dinner? Is there anything that we can snack on before dinner?”

While I’m cooking dinner – “Mom, we get it. We’re hungry. We have more than most. Do we really have to do this all week?”

An hour after dinner – “MOM!!! Daddy’s in the pantry! He’s cheating on the challenge!” Just before bed – “What? We didn’t get plums? I always have a plum before bed? It’s a fruit! It’s healthy! This is so NOT Fair!”

Tuesday morning – “Mom? I had a banana before dinner last night… and if I have one now before school, there will only be three bananas left. That’s not going to be enough for all week, right?…. I guess I can have half and make it last longer.”

There you have it – 24 hours. It is ALL about the food and it is NOT FAIR.

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Every year over 1,000 volunteers step through our doors at Carpenter’s Shelter. They dedicate over 14,000 hours of their time and skills. We have volunteers at the front desk, volunteers who watch our children, volunteers who job mentor, volunteers in the kitchen…Carpenter’s is ALWAYS full of volunteers, we seriously couldn’t run the shelter without them.

Recently, a group of students from the BU Center of Digital Imaging Arts created this short video all about our wonderful volunteers. We hope you enjoy the video and if you don’t already volunteer at Carpenter’s Shelter but are interested in becoming a volunteer, hop on over to our volunteer page and fill out the application. We’d love to see you around the shelter!

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After months of collaboration between Carpenter’s Shelter, The City of Alexandria and the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness, the day is finally upon us. Tuesday, September 4, The Homeless Services Assessment Center officially opened and began serving clients.

What is HSAC? HSAC at Carpenter’s Shelter is the central assessment center for homeless and at-risk individuals seeking shelter. HSAC is part of a duel intake system within the City of Alexandria. Families seeking services are assessed by the City, individuals looking for shelter, are now assessed by HSAC Staff at Carpenter’s Shelter. Instead of calling emergency shelter directly each day, homeless individuals will only need to make one call to HSAC.

Once they complete the eligibility screening, HSAC staff will make recommendations for the appropriate course of action. If emergency shelter is needed, HSAC will refer the individual to the shelter which has bed space availability. If diversion services are more appropriate, HSAC will distribute the funds necessary to keep the individual in their current housing situation.

If you have questions about HSAC or are in need of services, please contact Deanna Villanueva at (703) 548-0452.

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It’s September again and that means two things: the kids are headed back to school and the United Way and CFC campaigns are underway! What are the United Way and CFC? The United Way and CFC campaigns are two of the easiest ways to donate to Carpenter’s Shelter and you don’t even need to write us a check!

Donating through a regular payroll deduction allows your annual gift to be distributed throughout the year, making a lasting impact on Carpenter’s Shelter. Every contribution helps us change the lives of those most in need. All donations are tax deductible. In 2011, the CFC of the National Capital Area raised $64.5 million to help people and communities in need. 40.6% of those funds stayed in the region, benefiting local non-profit groups. This year the CFCNCA hopes to raise $62 million. With a number that large, every donor and every dollar make a difference.

You’re three easy steps away from contributing:
  • Choose Carpenter’s Shelter! Our number is #87293, check us out on page 30 of the 2012 Catalog of Caring
  • Complete the pledge form on
  • Submit your pledge, but remember to keep a copy for tax purposes.

Not a federal employee? Participating in the United Way is just as simple. Find out more about the United Way and download their campaign pledge form at Don’t forget, our United Way number is #8228.

FYI – Sometimes companies will match your donation. Make your donation twice as nice, ask your boss about company matching.

Questions about the United Way or CFC? Give us a call. Courtney Bishop would love to help you out. You can reach her at or by phone (703) 548-7500 x205

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Fiscal year 2012 was a great year for Carpenter’s Shelter. Last year we served 295 men women and children in the residential shelter, 395 chronically homeless individuals at David’s Place, and provided a safe place to sleep for 282 individuals through the Winter Shelter. We placed 97 individuals and families into stable housing, and continued to offer supportive services to 418 clients participating in Community Case Management. 1,179 volunteers stepped through our doors, dedicating 17,726 hours of services to the shelter. Our scholarship committee awarded $11,228 to clients and former clients looking to further their education. Our meal volunteers prepared 77,345 individuals meals for clients and David’s Place members, with no cost to the shelter. We are incredibly lucky to have such dedicated supporters and volunteers. Because of your support, we continue to work toward ending homelessness. Here’s to another great year at Carpenter’s Shelter.

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