Reston, VA

If the coronavirus spreads in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia, homeless shelters and other services for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families could be hit hard, officials warn.

Cornerstones, a local nonprofit organization that aims to promote self-sufficiency, is preparing for the potential impact of the respiratory disease. So far, 17 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Virginia, a number that officials say is expected to grow.

Kerrie Wilson, the CEO of Cornerstones, says that nonprofit organizations are at risk. The cascading effect of today’s school closure is expected to produce additional strains on services. Wilson said the nonprofit organization will need to balancing competing needs.

“We’ve seen this with other crises such as hurricanes, pandemics, and the federal government shut down impacts a huge number of households in our region. The Coronavirus poses a real and prolonged threat that can undermine the safety net and our undo the upstream workaround opportunity.”

So far, the nonprofit organization is working to protect the health and safety of its employees, staff, and individuals who depend on Cornerstones’ support and services. All non-essential meetings and community events have been postponed and the center is working with local government and schools to develop plans to continue operations for emergency food and shelter, as well as child and family services.

“While we have been fortunate to have only four documented cases in Fairfax to date, we are preparing for when, not if.”

The nonprofit is looking for donations to help with meal delivery after it requested that volunteers refrain from visiting the Embry Rucker Community Shelter until March 27.

Individuals interested in providing raw food donations can email [email protected] and individuals providing bagged meals can contact [email protected] for further assistance.

Other items — which can be dropped off at a shelf outside the center — are also needed:

  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Men’s and women’s underwear
  • Cleaning products (bleach, Lysol, paper towels, laundry pods, Windex, empty spray bottles)
  • Gift cards for fast food, grocery stores, Target
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer

The food pantry is also in need of the following, especially for seniors who may be shut off from family members and under-resourced families:

  • Grocery store gift cards
  • Gas gift cards
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Cooking Oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Clorox Wipes

“We have to balance risk against decision to expand childcare hours to ensure kids and parents have options,” Wilson said. “For people experiencing homelessness and in need of emergency housing and other services, our doors need to remain open – but with options to protect medically fragile guests from those who might have been exposed to risk and to ensure the safety of staff.”

The organization will continue to monitor the situation, which is evolving rapidly, and make additional changes as needed.

“The Coronavirus poses a real and prolonged threat that can undermine the safety net and our undo the upstream workaround opportunity,” Wilson said.

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