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What Moves Gregg

How Certified Master Movers Helps Homestretch Address Homelessness, One Family at a Time

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Ryan Corvello Photography, Melinda Gipson

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Gregg Day of Certified Master Movers has always been a professional mover—next year will be his 40th in the business, though he’s only owned his own company since the pandemic. Because Certified Master Movers is a bit of a boutique outfit the size of the company allows him to offer the personal level of service he considers his trademark. “It is the rare job when the customer doesn’t talk to me two or three times, including on-site during their move,” he says.

One of his specialties is in moving high-end antiques and heirlooms, particularly large pieces that need special care. “We take pride in having one of the lowest claims ratios of any moving company around. My insurance company didn’t believe me in year one so they did an audit and lowered my premiums.”

Attention to detail; trained, career movers, transparency, and superior process are all part of the package. As a smaller operation, he has had the opportunity to innovate and now offers “crate and freight services,” shipping household goods nationally and internationally. In large wooden containers he packs and ships everything from a whole house in just a few pieces, and, unlike the major van lines’ tractor trailers which may carry multiple family cargo with multiple deliveries, he can precisely peg a delivery time. Gregg packs and ships these crates to his agent for delivery anywhere in the world. “The van line system will always be there, but I think this crate and freight system is actually going to be the future of moving,” he says.

Moving people takes time, and forges relationships – probably because the process is so stressful. Because Gregg has moved many families who were downsizing into smaller homes, he often received offers of furniture from clients who have misjudged what their new space would hold. As a matter of service to his clients, he always accepted, but didn’t really have a use for it until after his local networking group chose Homestretch, a non-profit dedicated to addressing the root causes of homelessness for families with children, as its annual charity beneficiary. “At the time, I said, this is a perfect charity for me! I can donate all this furniture and help families with children make a home for themselves.” In the two and a half years that he’s been involved with Homestretch, he says he’s probably helped to furnish two or three dozen apartments.

Real excitement grows in Gregg’s voice as he begins to tick off Homestretch’s success metrics – how, like his own, it’s a small organization that relies on personalized attention to what caused a family to become homeless in the first place. “They may only help 60 families a year, but most of those families are children, so the average age of the person they help is just 9 years old.” Mothers who have fled domestic abuse with their children are the most frequent beneficiaries of Homestretch’s services, which include helping her finish her education, engage in job training, get out of debt and rebuild her credit, and land a good-paying job that can support her family’s future housing needs. Homestretch’s process typically takes two years, but at the end of that period, 90 percent of clients remain safely housed and employed and many go on to own their own homes.

Two client stories particularly touched Gregg: one of a single father who lost a son to a medical condition that exhausted the family finances and ultimately caused him to lose his job as well, rendering his second son and himself homeless. With Homestretch’s help, he’s now a manager at Wegman’s and his son is starting college at George Mason University. Another female client and her children suffered domestic abuse. “Homestretch helped her get away and go back to school and now she has her master’s degree and is teaching at a local community college. These stories are just so amazing!” Gregg enthused.

Obviously, we wanted to find out what makes Homestretch so effective in overcoming the myriad causes of homelessness in Northern Virginia. What we found is that executive director Chris Fay shares Gregg’s values for personal attention.

Though it doesn’t enjoy the name recognition of Habitat for Humanity, Homestretch has been serving Northern Virginia homeless clients for 32 years. Based in Falls Church, it owns its own building with its own licensed preschool, Kidstretch, and nursery on the first floor; credit, job and education counseling services on the second floor; room for a medical clinic on the third and administrative offices on the fourth. Over the years, it has acquired 36 apartments and homes which, with another dozen rentals, it uses to house and help train 52 homeless families a year to build financially stable and productive lives.

“What happens is that we take a homeless family with children, put them in a home, and then treat them with services designed to identify all the problems that led to their condition. When we address those problems, the family can ascend out of poverty and crisis,” Chris explains. “Families tend to stay with us for a longer period because our services tend to be more comprehensive, intensive and individualized.” Whatever the cause of their homelessness, Homestretch has a program designed to help their issues in a wholistic way – to set goals and support them as they work to achieve them... We tend to work with fewer families than a lot of other programs, but with the intent that this family will never return to homelessness.”

And, for all but a very few, that's what happens. In the last decade, Chris says graduates of Homestretch have become nurses, teachers, accountants, chefs, and licensed social workers. “We had one just open up a culinary business that was featured on the Food Channel and another one who has won awards for being one of the top Realtors in Northern Virginia. Another was listed in Washingtonian Magazine last December as one of the top 50 nurses in the metropolitan area.” So, yes, the intensive engagement Homestretch provides has a significant and lasting impact.

Ninety percent of Homestretch’s clients are single mothers with children, 65 percent of them fleeing domestic violence or human trafficking. “So there’s considerable trauma in these families that has to be dealt with in this individualized plan,” Chris says. Regardless of income, each family is expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward housing costs and 10 percent towards savings, to help them learn budgeting.

Homestretch doesn’t take government funding because “the current government model does not support the way we do things which is this depth of services and working with families over a long period of time,” Chris explains; “So, we actually must raise all our money for the private sector.” For example, one client with several children came to the program from an abusive home situation. She said she wanted to become a nurse. The team determined that it would take three years for her to complete her nurse’s training, after which time she could support her large family. Government assistance wouldn’t have funded her for such a long period of time, which served as Chris’ “aha moment” regarding the charity’s need to seek private donations.

Individual donors, businesses and the Northern Virginia faith community all donate to support the program, which takes roughly $40,000 per year per family to run the program. An individual church may support a single family or to sponsor one of the Homestretch homes through its “Sacred Homes” program, or just contribute as they can for all the services it provides. And, as for the nurse, she went on to serve in INOVA’s cancer ward and all of her children went from failing in school to excelling – a couple of them are already in college. “This kind of intervention takes more time to explore resources like transportation, childcare, scholarships and tutoring assistance, but it has a profound and lasting impact,” Chris said.

Partners like Gregg of Certified Master Movers, Habitat, and HomeAid – a non-profit that brings trades people together to renovate and even build homes for homeless and low income people – all are essential to Homestretch’s success. “It takes all of us to make it work,” Chris said.

If you have resources or services you’d like to donate, check out https://www.homestretchva.org/ways-to-donate, call 703-237-2035 or email info@homestrechva.org.

And, if you’re moving, rest assured that at Certified Master Movers you’ll also be treated like the most important family on Earth. Give Gregg a call: 703-783-4820. Check out his reviews on Google https://bit.ly/CMMReviews and a short video about why his nearly 40 years of experience as a professional mover means that he can handle your move better than anyone else. https://bit.ly/CMMvideo.

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