BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE / THE FREE LANCE-STAR
On a cold February night in 1985, a group of church members heading for a meeting met a homeless man.
They invited him inside the church, asked about his life.
A shelter for homeless women and children sprang from that conversation. Over the years, Hope House has sheltered hundreds of families in a white home on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg.
On Wednesday evening, that home got a new name-and a new benefactor.
A cheerful sign now declares the home Loisann's Hope House, named for the sister of developer Larry Silver.
Loisann Silver Chacon, a social worker, devoted her life to helping "children, the elderly and those who have found themselves down on their luck," Silver said in a dedication ceremony Wednesday night.
To honor his sister's memory, Silver has pledged to pay off the nonprofit's mortgage on three properties. The first payment has already been made, said Lisa Crittenden, director of Hope House.
The next two payments will be made in the next two years, she said.
And the timing couldn't be better as area homeless shelters face shrinking grant dollars.
"Hope House has seen some dark clouds," board member Anna Billingsley said Wednesday. "This afternoon, we celebrate our silver lining."
In the current year, Hope House received about $41,000 less in government money than it did last year, Crittenden said.
And as the state trims its budget, there might be more cuts ahead for homeless services, she said.
Many of the cuts come as state and federal governments focus on rapidly re-housing homeless people instead of shelters.
Locally, homeless agencies have been getting families into housing quickly. Last year, Hope House placed 19 families in permanent homes.
But the need for shelter hasn't abated.
"It's unfortunate that in order to bolster one initiative, the state cuts other initiatives," said Kathy Anderson, director of Empowerhouse, which helps people fleeing domestic violence.
Her agency also housed several families last year but still sees a rising demand for shelters. Empowerhouse employees field calls daily from people needing help, Anderson said.
"We're desperately trying to meet the need," she said.
So Anderson, Crittenden and other area homeless advocates have had to get creative. At Hope House, staff and board members strived to form new relationships in the community, like reaching out to Silver.
Hope House also partnered with Hillcrest United Methodist Church, which has helped the nonprofit with roof repairs, a kitchen renovation and a handicapped ramp.
"What they do in helping women and children get back on their feet is amazing," said the Rev. Justin Williams, Hillcrest's pastor. "We wanted to be part of that."
And Chacon would also have wanted to be part of that effort, Silver said.
The lifelong social worker had a heart for homeless youth and worked with them throughout much of her career.
"She had an exuberance of compassion and caring for the troubled young adults she worked with," said Larry Silver's wife, Deborah.
While adults celebrated the shelter's new name, some of the children who live at Hope House played on the playground and snacked on appetizers.
Soncerae Colclough watched her children as they munched on vegetables and dip. She said that the shelter provided a place when she didn't have anywhere else to go. She's lived at Hope House for eight months and has seen other women leave the shelter for permanent housing.
"This organization helped them get on their feet and succeed in life," Colclough said. "And as time comes, I'll be one of those ladies."
Amy Umble: 540/735-1973
ABOUT LOISANN SILVER CHACON
Loisann Silver Chacon grew up in Fredericksburg. The daughter of Maxine and Carl Silver, she attended Maury Elementary and James Monroe High schools.
Chacon received a bachelor's degree from George Washington University and a master's from Antioch University in Seattle, Wash.
She became a social worker, specializing in helping poor and minority teens prepare for college. Chacon also worked with mentally ill patients, homeless youth and abused children.
She died in 2011 from heart failure. At the time, she lived in Pueblo, Colo. She was married to Dr. Paul Chacon.
WANT TO HELP?
An upcoming golf tournament will benefit Loisann's Hope House. The event will be held Sept. 22 at Lee's Hill Golf Course in Spotsylvania County. To register a single player or a foursome, contact Joe Richardelli at 540/621-3056.