Fortier and Mobile Hope client

Mobile Hope CEO and Founder Donna Fortier sits with Marta, one of the organization's clients. 

This past weekend’s Clear the Shelter event at the region’s animal shelters made me happy, of course. But I was also sad.

As a pet owner, I am glad more animals have homes. Yet, as the head of a nonprofit that works with youth who are homeless, it frustrates me that we do not treat our kids with the same exuberance and urgency.

We have a growing youth homelessness issue in Loudoun County. The issue may not be visible to most residents, but that does not mean homeless youth do not exist. In fact, here are real life examples of homelessness that we encounter daily:

-A young lady escaping a violent home;

-A young couple who was sleeping under a bush the last few weeks;

-A homeless couple who is trying to make a home in the woods;

-A client in the shelter as they wait for an opening in a group home with a long wait list;

-Three clients that were recently released from the adult detention center who are all now homeless;

-A young man sleeping on the streets because that is where he feels most safe;

-And a young lady who is staying with a young man she just met four weeks ago because she did not want to be alone in a hotel and could not return home.

To serve these young people whose lives have been marred by difficult circumstances and trauma, we have only one adult shelter, which is often overcrowded, meaning no available beds. Some are lucky to get put into a hotel. Others take to the streets or an open couch. The county does not have a halfway house, so those exiting the detention center are more likely to become repeat offenders or become homeless. Meanwhile, the county’s animal shelter is getting a $25 million renovation.

At a minimum, we need to put the same priority on our homeless youth problem. While we wait, we are starting a capital campaign to buy property to build a facility of support and self-empowerment to give these kids an opportunity for success.

Support works. One of our recently homeless kids received her license, and another started his second job. One learned to cook waffles from scratch – his favorite meal – and another has been clean for a year. Two are heading to college, while another recently found fairly stable housing.

We are hosting Harmonizing for Hope along with Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden, his wife Sherry and the Redskins to further raise funds for this property and other critical services to get these youth off the couches, in from the outside, out of the shelters and ready for adulthood. This karaoke-inspired fundraiser takes place on Aug. 30 at ChefScape in Leesburg. It's the perfect way to learn more and get involved. It's also a lot of fun.

Loudoun is a great county, but our struggling youth want to succeed. We can do better. Get involved, learn the facts and leave your legacy. Together, we can clear all the shelters.


Donna Fortier is the CEO and founder of Mobile Hope, which assists homeless and precariously housed people in Loudoun County.

Josh Norman | Harmonizing for Hope

Washington Redskins Cornerback Josh Norman sings Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Worth” during the 2018 Harmonizing for Hope fundraiser to benefit Mobile Hope. This year's event is Aug. 30.

(17) comments


tolerantleft “Like I said, I’m all for helping CITIZENS”, that would be most of the people in homeless shelters. According to HUD The homeless population is largely male. Among individual adults, 70 percent are men. White Americans are the largest racial grouping, accounting for 49 percent of those experiencing homelessness. However, African Americans and American Indians are dramatically overrepresented in the Point-in-Time Count compared to their numbers in the general population. Since 2007, the year HUD began collecting this data, homelessness decreased by 15 percent. If you think it is from any recent flooding at the borders then the stats don’t support it.


The amount of support for the homeless measured by the BOS allotment to the Good Shepherd Alliance where I volunteered as a board member for a decade has not gone up as the demand for help has. This is where politics and politicians can be seen for the self serving wanna=bees they really are. There are many things a non-profit charity can do much more effectively than government and taking care of the homeless is one of them. The new comprehensive plan which Ms Randall approved not only . violated the transition area promises but provides NO LOCATION where a homeless shelter would be approved. How can that be? Many of the families the GSA took care of were not lazy, not drug addicted, not criminals but rather just a family that relied on one wage earner and he lost his job. Many are single women with child who were deserted by their husband and even some are single women who chose to have their baby but with no place to stay. GSA and other charities rise to such occasions and residents should be glad they do. Community supports comes in many flavors and sizes but any BOS member that doesn't care for Loudoun residents who fall on bad times don't deserve to be in office!


Homeless crisis: thank you liberalism


trump talking point, and utterly ridiculous. But you blame every unfortunate scenario on liberals, time to man up and stop blaming others for everything. the population in the poverty level has increased since trump took office. Yet he still wants to limit aid for low income people. He wants to take food from children through SNAP who the USDA says have been the largest number of participants.


I know, I know, those evil Republicans want to starve children and take healthcare away from seniors. Good heavens, same old playbook, same old results.. Definition of insanity


Romano, who said it was Republicans? The republicans that I know feel pretty strongly that the way people are being held at the border and wanting to decrease SNAP are trump issues that they don't agree with. But the republicans that I know are life long republicans not the sheep following trump.


legit conservatives want the border controlled, like any sovereign nation, and don't want to fund things that encourage illegal border crossings. So you might have a few token RINOS as pals, but they are not conservatives. I suspect you are being disingenuous, like someone who is accused of racism who tells you about their black friend. As you have shown time and time again in LTD threads, you have a very shallow understanding of the issues but lots of emotion and passion...classic traits of liberalism and the fuel behind 50 years of compassionate and emotional policies which have never produced results, have failed time and time again. So sad that so many are being duped by folks who are invested in their dependence. Talk about sheep...


Wow isn't there anything that you haven't blamed on the left? It's your go to answer for everything. Please don't expect us to take you seriously. The most common reasons for homelessness involve domestic violence, chronic substance abuse, chronic health problems and mental illness. The lack of affordable housing in Loudoun County also plays a role. OMG it is so much easier to blame someone you don't like than find the truth. The good news is that the homeless rate for veterans has gone down.


I am a rescuer and a financial supporter of Loudoun Empty Bowls. The writer makes a great point BUT - the squeaky wheel gets the grease. To raise awareness and funds, they need to mobilize, complain, market and make noise. For example, Loudoun County Animal Shelter is out there with a strong marketing campaign, web presence and a Facebook presence. And folks share the heck out of their posts. This article should be shared a hundred times!


Well said, unfortunately folks are more than happy to allow the flood of illegals coming in and taking resources away from Americans.


I doubt you have ever had to clean up a camping area where homeless people have resided. When you find children backpacks filled with school work and coloring books, your perspective becomes less short sighted. All the homework was written in English, so not sure of the illegal resource depletion you're referencing. Loudoun has resources other communities can only dream of.


Like I said, I’m all for helping CITIZENS. Just can’t afford to take in the rest of the world.


What folks are that? I don't know any. If you mean legal asylum seekers then maybe you should check you roots.


African Americans, who make up about 13% of the general population, were 39.8% of homeless people during the count, or triple their percentage of the population. Native Americans are heavily over represented among the homeless, being 1.5% of the population but 2.8% of the homeless. It's not as great a degree of over representation as African Americans but still almost double. Pacific Islanders are about 0.5% of the population but 1.5% of the homeless.White Americans are the largest racial grouping, accounting for 49 percent of those experiencing homelessness.


Since citizens are the majority of those in shelters, what doe the amount of illegals coming into the country have to do with it? The highest percentage is among single adults and in that group it is among veterans. If you think it has anything to do with taking resources away then you need to prove it. Put up or shut up kind of deal. The number of illegal immigrants has decreased every year since 2007.


Wow! Made me sit up and ask "how and why!" I am an avid pet owner as well and havea rescue but you are so right. $25 mil for animals and Loudoun doesn't have a half-way house! Why shouldthat surprise me when to this county "affordable housing" is anything under either $1200/mo to rent or $200,000 to buy (and that'sa condo)! We certainly have some very worthwhile charities getting philanthropic help on a regular basis (Food Pantry, LAWS), but perhaps this cause/issue should be at the top of all their lists for their next round of checks! Kudos to Coach and Mrs. Gruden and the 'Skins for lending their support as I know they are barraged by requests and they chose this as one of their recipients. Maybe the wineries and breweries could do a weekend of where a percentage of their proceeds go to this cool would that be! "A Taste for the Homeless" or "Each glass gets us 'halfway' closer"...just a thought. I know now where what I can afford to donate on a fixed income will be going!


Wow, that a bite of reality. What has happened to empathy, loving thy neighbor?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.