Addressing homelessness across the region

A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a collaborative funding and planning system mandated by federal and state government. The Western Virginia CoC (VA-513) covers the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren, the towns within those counties, and the cities of Winchester and Harrisonburg. The Western Virginia CoC receives federal funding to provide homeless services through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Members of the Western Virginia CoC at the Build for Zero Conference in Denver - October 2019

Western Virginia CoC members at the Built for Zero Conference in Denver, CO. Oct 2019 From left to right:
Oscar Cerrito-Mendoza, Housing Services Manager, AIDS Response Effort, Winchester, VA
Sheila Orndorff, Executive Director, Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, Woodstock, VA
Vine Adowei, Western Virginia CoC Coordinator, HRHA, Harrisonburg, VA
Shannon Porter, Executive Director, Mercy House, Harrisonburg, VA
Seli Perry, Director of Operations, Mercy House, Harrisonburg, VA

The primary goal of the CoC is to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring. Under the umbrella of the CoC, nonprofits and government agencies address homelessness with a variety of programs and services. The Western Virginia CoC has received HUD grants for permanent supportive housing, and to oversee the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a client database system (See page 3 for more on HMIS). Additionally, the Western Virginia CoC receives state funding through the Virginia Homeless Solutions Program (VHSP) grant for prevention, rapid re-housing, Centralized Intake, street outreach, emergency shelter, and Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids (HOPWA). HRHA is the lead agency for both grants and houses both the Western Virginia CoC Coordinator and the HMIS Coordinator. Learn more at:

“I am excited about the innovative and collaborative ways in which our CoC is addressing homelessness and working to improve affordable housing throughout the region. I hope that more agencies and individuals will join our coordinated efforts to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring in our communities.” – Vine Adowei, Western Virginia CoC Coordinator

A Generous Community – 12th Annual Giving Tree Initiative a Success

The last of the gifts are going out this week to parents in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. Since 2007, HRHA and the FSS program have teamed up with community partners on a Giving Tree initiative. For working families in the FSS program, December and the Holiday season can be incredibly stressful. HRHA creates ornaments with children’s names and gift requests and places them on tress at both the JCPenney Salon and Santa’s Workshop in the Valley Mall. Community members, families, and organizations pick out a child or two or more, purchase gifts, and return them to our office. This year with your help we provided gifts for over 90 children from around 40 families. All received gift in time for the Holidays.

We are incredibly grateful for WHSV for covering the initiative, as well as organizations like the Blue Ridge AACN and Broadway High school FFA Chapter who together provided gifts for nearly 30 children. We are also grateful to Diane and the JCPenney Salon team and the team at Santa’s Workshop at the Valley Mall for hosting the trees every year. Thank you for making this years Giving Tree a success.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!

“I can’t even find the words to express how thankful I am! Honestly was terrified this month for Christmas. And now I am blessed I can rest easy for my children will have presents! Thank you thank you thank you!”

“Thank you so much for making sure my kids have a Christmas this year!”

“Thank you for saving Christmas!”

“This helps out in so many ways, I’m the only one working. Thank you”

“Being a single mom is tough. This helps ease the stress on me and more importantly brings Christmas magic to my daughters. Thank you much for being a real life Santa”

“Thank you for your generosity, thank you for helping my daughters have a good Christmas”

Toward Home Ownership

A partnership between the City of Harrisonburg and HRHA, the Homebuyer Assistance Program was established to help low to moderate income, first-time home buyers purchase a home in the city of Harrisonburg. A dedicated HRHA staff member assists eligible individuals and families with improving their credit score, taking a Homebuyer Education Course, connecting with local lenders and realtors, and overall home buying readiness. Funds were established to offer both down payment and closing cost financial assistance to successful program participants. This past year, two Harrisonburg families successfully completed the program, purchasing homes in Harrisonburg City limits for the first time.

Katie and her husband standing in front of their new home in Harrisonburg

Katie and husband Said in front of their new home. November 2019

“I am very grateful for the Homebuyer Assistance Program because without it, I would not be a home owner now. There are so many details and confusing elements to buying a home, especially for a first-timer like me. I am so thankful this program exists and I just want to shout it from the rooftops in case more people qualify and don’t know about it! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for my family in our new home and in this great community. Thank you to everyone who played a part in helping me through this.”

– Katie T.

Homebuyer Assistance Program Participant October 2019


Interested in the Homebuyer Assistance program or know someone who might be? Learn more and apply HERE, or by calling (540)-437-9545

HRHA Welcomes New FSS Coordinator

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program is one of the primary avenues HRHA utilizes to help families develop skills, improve financial stability, and move toward self-sufficiency. The Coordinator for this program provides the necessary case management, vision, and oversight to ensure participant success. The Coordinator helps connect FSS families with dozens of community resources and partners, provide resume and job readiness assistance, and aid families in setting & meeting goals. Shirley Sheets has led this program for the last 12 years, but has recently moved to a position with the County schools. We will miss Shirley dearly but are excited to welcome Zoe Parakuo as the new FSS Coordinator. Zoe Parakuo portrait

Zoe brings a wealth of experience to the FSS Program. Originally from Kenya, Zoe moved to the U.S. in 2009, attending Harrisonburg High School and then Eastern Mennonite University. She holds a B.A. in Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution from EMU, where she was active in the International Student Union, Black Student Union, and Peace Fellowship. Following graduation Zoe served with Mennonite Central Committee in Tanzania as a Women’s Empowerment Mentor. After returning to the U.S. Zoe worked as an Assistant Case Manager with our local Church World Service office. Zoe is excited to connect with our FSS participants and continue to grow the program, empowering individuals and families to move toward self-sufficiency.

Questions about the FSS Program? Feel free to reach out to our office at 540-437-9545.

A Gift for Every Child

Small Christmas Tree with names of children as ornaments

The Holiday season can be stressful on families, particularly as parents wrestle with the cost of providing gifts for theirchildren. Since 2007, HRHA has provided Holiday Gift Assistance for parents in our Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Dozens of community members take a child’s name each year, donating toys, clothes, and gift cards to children living in affordable housing.

You can receive a child’s name (November 8 – December 13) at Santa’s Workshop at the Valley Mall, The Salon at JCPenny, or by calling 540-437-9545. Please bring gifts unwrapped back to the Valley Mall, along with the ornament (name) of the child. You can also drop off gifts at our Reservoir St office (143 Reservoir St). To donate directly to this program, you can visit our website at Thank you for your support!


12 Years of Service

This week is Shirley Sheets’ last week with HRHA. Shirley Sheets has served as the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Coordinator for HRHA since 2007. The FSS Coordinator develops individualized plans with participants that facilitate achievement of financial, educational, and employment goals. She has been instrumental in helping low-income individuals and families move towards self-sufficiency.

An advertisement in the paper originally drew Ms. Shirley (as many program participants call her) to the FSS Coordinator position. “I’ve always liked helping other people. That was the most important thing I was looking for,” she noted. Over the years she has assisted hundreds of individuals with job applications, educational achievements, and access to community resources. Walk into the office on a typical weekday and Ms. Shirley is likely meeting with an FSS participant, working with them on pre-employment preparation, finding quality childcare, or making a budget. When not in the office, Shirley is often out in the community, coordinating programs that help encourage and empower program participants. two women in an office looking at a paper, including Ms. Shirley

She shared, “Seeing people fulfill their goals, like when they buy a house or a car, that has been very rewarding for me.” One program participant shared, “After I quit my last job, I had pretty low self-confidence. Ms. Shirley worked with me to find a new opportunity. She helped with the application for my current job, and I eventually went in for an interview. If I didn’t have Shirley’s support, I would not have gotten my new job. I’m really going to miss her. Her positivity rubs off on people, her confidence helped me get to where I am today.”

Shirley is moving into the role of Literacy Coordinator with the Rockingham County School system. We wish her all the best in this next phase.

5.5 Million to Support Rental Assistance in 2018

While HRHA owns and manages 280 housing units in Harrisonburg, a majority of families receiving housing assistance rent from private landlords through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV). Voucher participants pay a portion of the rent based on their income, and

HRHA pays the rest of the rent directly to the landlord. In 2018, the $5.5 million in rental assistance included rental payment to 200+ private landlords housing over 600 families. We are incredibly grateful for our participating landlords, who provide affordable housing units throughout the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Currently, HRHA administers 883 vouchers, and is always seeking participating landlords. There are many benefits to partnering with HRHA, including guaranteed payment by HRHA, maintained independence, and more. For more information and to list your unit with us, you can check out our website at, or reach out to our HCV Manager Liz Webb at (540)-434-7386.