The Need

Britepaths’ mission is to provide our neighbors in need with short-term safety net services and empower them to work toward long-term self-sufficiency. Our primary programs Stabilize Families by providing short-term food and financial assistance and Build Resilience by providing mentoring, classes and longer-term guidance that help families help themselves out of their crisis and onto a path where they can plan for a stable future. Supports for Children provide school supplies and weekend supplemental food for students in need, youth financial literacy programs and holiday meals and gifts for children, relieving financial burdens and offering hope at a time when life is uncertain.

Britepaths has spent 38 years providing help and hope to struggling residents in the Fairfax County area of Virginia, particularly those living from paycheck to paycheck. Although there is much wealth in Northern Virginia, we lack enough affordable housing and there are pockets throughout the region where there is a high rate of poverty. Britepaths targets those pockets.

As reported by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, Often there are striking differences in living conditions among nearby neighborhoods separated by only a few miles or even a few blocks. These pockets of disadvantage often coexist a short distance away from affluent neighborhoods with large homes on expansive lots….Research identified 15 ‘islands of disadvantage’ across the region: clusters of adjacent census tracts, amid the affluence of Northern Virginia, where residents face difficult challenges, ranging from poor education and poverty to overcrowded housing and lack of health insurance. Approximately 520,000 persons lived in these 15 clusters.“ -- Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia, Stephen H. Woolf, et. al, The Center on Society and Health, November 2017.

In addition to being among the hardest hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, lower-income families are less prepared to withstand a financial shock than those with higher incomes. Only 23% say they have rainy day funds set aside that would cover their expenses for three months in case of an emergency such as job loss, sickness or an economic downturn, compared with 48% of middle-income and 75% of upper-income adults -- About Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due to COVID-19, Pew Research Center, April 21, 2020.

The economic recession that has resulted from the pandemic has only exacerbated income disparity. The pandemic has brought uneven work opportunities. Many workplaces have closed or reduced their hours. More people are offered part-time work that often has unpredictable schedules, adding to child care costs while preventing them from obtaining additional work. Cars are often crucial to their employment, particularly those who drive for ride sharing companies. Part-time work generally comes without health benefits or paid leave.

In Fairfax County, 32% of all households are renters [National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), 2019]. Additionally, one in six county residents have incomes under 200% of poverty—$53,000 for a family of four [American Community Survey (ACS), 2019]. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, to support a family of four with two children, one would need to earn more than $75,000 to meet the expenses of living in Fairfax County. A two-bedroom apartment, at fair market rate, costs $1,665/month [NLIHC, 2019]. Other costs of food, child care, transportation, medical care, etc., all of which are rapidly becoming more expensive, would require significant additional income. These families who are struggling to make ends meet need help with basic bills and strong budgeting skills to make every dollar they have work for them.

The ability to earn a living wage is another barrier to long-term self-sufficiency, which is why Britepaths offers Workforce Development coaching, supports and training. Our services address barriers to gainful employment by helping under- and unemployed adults explore, refresh or learn new skills, learn how to better market their talents, and gain access to networks that were previously unavailable to them so they can obtain and retain better-paying jobs.

Underpinning the skill-building and safety net supports Britepaths offers is hope. At Britepaths, we look at each person as an individual with a unique set of circumstances that brought them to our door. With a holistic approach, leveraging volunteers and partner organizations, we help guide our clients on a path that uniquely fits their needs to achieve their goals.

A study in brain science demonstrated the impact of chronic stress. Many of our clients describe experiencing chronic stress, which is defined as long-term stress; for example, worrying about making monthly rent for years. Additionally, financial concerns are not felt equally by all Americans. Those in lower-income families are at least twice as likely as those in upper-income families to say they regularly worry about making ends meet in various ways. For example, 59% of lower-income adults say they worry at least almost every day about paying their bills, compared with 15% of upper-income adults.

Across income groups, those who have been laid off or have taken a pay cut as a result of the pandemic are more likely than those who have not experienced this to say they worry about these financial concerns almost every day or more often. Roughly half (51%) of those who’ve had this type of job disruption in their household say they worry about paying their bills at least almost every day, compared with 28% of those whose household hasn’t had these experiences. Women, black and Hispanic adults, those younger than 65, and those without bachelor’s degrees are the most likely to report regularly worrying about most of these financial issues [Pew Research Center survey, April 21, 2020].

This type of stress negatively impacts one’s executive functioning skills and biological health. [Rethinking Poverty, Elisabeth D. Babcock, Fall 2014].

Britepaths’ programs help lift people out of that rut. We help people envision a goal, make a plan and provide support toward a brighter path.

Over our 38 years, we have grown and evolved our programs to meet the needs that we have found to be greatest.

The neighbors we serve could be your child’s preschool teacher or bus driver, your local mechanic, grocer, hair stylist or someone down the street who has fallen on hard times. Your volunteer and/or financial support for Britepaths’ programs provides help and hope for someone who lives surprisingly close to you.

February 2022