The History of Alternative House
How We Got Started
Alternative House began as an emergency shelter for runaway teenagers in Northern Virginia. It remains the only emergency shelter in Northern Virginia. A group of McLean-based churches responded to the need for an emergency shelter for teens by opening their doors in the evenings to give teens a safe place to stay. When they realized that the need was much larger than what they could handle, they supported the incorporation of Alternative House as a private, non-profit organization. Many important decisions, changes and additions have been made over the years that make Alternative House the place it is today.
Emergency Shelter for Teenagers: A History
Originally situated in a trailer on the grounds of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, the Emergency Shelter for Teenagers moved to its own home on Gallows Road near Tysons Corner. 25 years ago, the Shelter moved down the street to its current location at 2100 Gallows Road. In 2001, the Northern Virginia Home Building Industry and Home Aid donated a renovation that doubled the size of the house.
Community-Based Services: A History
In 1993, Alternative House expanded its services to reach out to at-risk young people in Fairfax County. Community-based Youth Services began with two counselors walking through the Culmore, Springfield and Route 1 neighborhoods reaching out to young people on the streets providing them with food, clothing, supplies, counseling and support.
That outreach effort continues today. Alternative House's Community-Based Services and programs help children and teens stay in school and improve their grades, while staying away from gangs, drugs and violent behavior. Additional recreational and educational services have been added to give young people safe places in which to spend their free time.
-In 1998, Alternative House opened the drop-in Teen Center for 7th - 12th graders after school, located in the Culmore neighborhood of Falls Church.
-In 2002, the Safe Youth Project opened, an out-of-school drop-in program for 4th - 6th graders after police informed Alternative House staff that gangs are recruiting children as young as ten years old. The Safe Youth Project in Culmore was so successful that we were able to open two more Safe Youth Projects, in Annandale (2004) and Springfield (2014).
Assisting Young Mothers: A History
In 2002, Alternative House expanded once again. We opened the Assisting Young Mothers (AYM) program to meet the needs of homeless pregnant and parenting young women. The program was full the day it opened and has a waiting list which averages 15 young moms each month. AYM provides shelter, counseling and support to young mothers ages 16-24 and their children. AYM helps young mothers learn to budget their money, be nurturing parents, continue their education and maintain employment.
Homeless Youth Initiative: A History
In August 2010, Alternative House opened new doors to at-risk youth in the community. The Homeless Youth Initiative is a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools to help homeless high school students who are without the support of a parent or guardian. These young people are totally alone. Helping these students find safe, affordable housing allows them to complete high school and move on to college or employment. In addition to receiving help with housing students also receive counseling, assistance with budgeting and other live skills, tutoring, and assistance with emergency food and supplies.
Transitional Living Program: A History
The Transitional Living Program (TLP), which began in 2012 expands the Homeless Youth Initiative to serve homeless young people 18 to 22 years of age regardless of their school status by providing rent support, and employment and educational assistance.
Alternative House Today
Celebrating more than 43 years of service to children, youth and families, Alternative House is looking forward to continuing its tradition of meeting the needs of the community. Alternative House has a diverse staff with a passion for helping young people and a dedication to making a positive difference in their lives. Alternative House is governed and supported by our volunteer Board of Directors and is grateful for the support of our volunteers and other community members. Our programs help give young people hope for brighter futures.