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New River Family Shelter

(Formerly Montgomery County Community Shelter)

110 Roanoke Street
  Christiansburg, Virginia 24073
Phone: 540-382-6188

NRFS on Facebook

Topics: Information | Newsletter | Homelessness/Other Community Shelters | Other Related Organizations.

Executive Director: Carol Johnson

Board of Directors

President: Michael Lee ( lee.michael4@verizon.net)
Vice President: Darlinda McChain (darlindajane@yahoo.com)
Secretary: vacant


Aline Brinkman (abrinckman@mcps.org), Deidra Hale (deidra_hale@yahoo.com), (Telina Hiser (thiser@freedomfirst.com), Kim Lee (klee@virginiawestern.edu), Robert McCleod (apache13@nrvunwired.net), Jackie Patrick (jacqui4@comcast.net), Nancy Rooker (grooker@naxs.net)

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Mission Statement

The mission of the NRFS is to provide safe emergency and transitional shelter throughout the New River Valley connecting families with supportive services that empower them to make behavioral changes that promote self sufficiency and stability.

Program Description

The New River Family Shelter (NRFS) is a nonprofit organization with 501(c) (3) tax exempt status. The organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors that meets regularly (typically once a month) to meet with shelter staff, discuss shelter business, form and evaluate policy, develop fundraising strategies, and plan for the future of the agency. NRFS has a paid full-time Executive Director who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the shelter. Additional staff such as a Family Development Coordinator or a Programs Coordinator have existed in times past as the shelter board saw the need.


NRFS is funded primarily through the support of individuals and organizations from within the New River Valley and through the Montgomery County United Way and the Radford United Way. The Shelter also actively pursues governmental and foundation funding. Recently, the Shelter invested in the Community Fund to develop a means to provide long-term funding for the organization. The Shelter does not charge for its services, and all donations to NRFS are tax deductible. NRFS believes strongly that when a family is provided with a safe and comfortable place to regroup, they will be much more successful. Our shelter is designed so that the families can maintain a sense of dignity and independence while actively working to resolve personal issues that would otherwise keep them homeless. The Shelter facilities available to date are established for short term housing (30-90 days). The Shelter plans, in the future, to develop transitional facilities (3-6 months). We are dedicated to the goal of self sufficiency for Shelter residents. Most of all, we give our families time to heal and the opportunity to leave the Shelter in much better state than that in which they arrived.

History and Philosophy of the Organization

New River Family Shelter (NRFS), formally the Montgomery County Community Shelter (MCCS), provides emergency and transitional housing for families who are homeless due to an economic crisis. Eligible families are considered to be those who have lived independently in the past and need help in transition through their current crisis. NRFS also provides families with short term, emergency shelter in local motels during the winter months. Formally this program is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NRFS strongly believes that the best way to combat homelessness is to provide families with support services which help them in transition through this difficult time and also help them avoid homelessness in the future. Shelter staff coordinate services provided to the families by the Host Churches, individual volunteers, and other social service agencies to effectively help homeless families help themselves. Also, NRFS works cooperatively with a variety of agencies throughout the community to develop programs and housing for economically-disadvantaged people. Finally, NRFS communicates the plight of homeless families in the New River Valley to the community at large. Prior to late 1987, the only means available to assist families in need of temporary shelter was to provide a room in a local motel for a limited number of days (usually less than a week). Funding for this service was provided through FEMA and administered by New River Community Action. FEMA funding is sporadic and, once depleted, Community Action found it necessary to rely upon the generosity of churches to provided families with a few nights' shelter. New River Community Action decided to solicit the assistance of the local Ministerial Association to find a more satisfactory method of providing temporary shelter to homeless families. In November of 1987, staff members from Community Action met with the Ministerial Associations from both Blacksburg and Christiansburg to describe the problems facing homeless families and to solicit their ideas and support. After considerable discussion, the Ministerial Associations decided to form a committee consisting of representatives from each church interested in working with the homeless families.

The committee started by renting a trailer in Blacksburg which could be used to provide shelter for one homeless family at a time. The program was called Adopt-A-Trailer and a lease was signed with Park Realty in early 1988. New River Community Action was responsible for screening eligible families and the founding committee asked the churches to serve as hosts for the families while they resided in the Shelter. The Adopt-A-Trailer program worked well; however, it was quickly realized that a larger facility was needed. In order to raise funds for a large facility the committee decided to file for tax-exempt status with the IRS as the Montgomery County Community Shelter (MCCS) in early 1989.

At the same time, MCCS purchased and converted a one and one-half story home on Roanoke Street in Christiansburg to a three unit shelter. The next two years were spent serving families in the trailer and fund raising for renovation costs of the house in Christiansburg. The Board of Directors converted the Christiansburg house into a triplex containing two apartments on the ground level and an efficiency located upstairs. Later in 1990, the committee, now a board of directors, hired the first staff person as part-time Executive Director The Executive Director was shared with New River Valley Habitat for Humanity. The Community Shelter in Christiansburg was dedicated on March 9, 1991 and the first family moved in on April 4, 1991. By the Summer of 1994 MCCS received a grant to fund a part-time Family Coordinator. Later that same year the Board of Directors hired the part-time Executive Director as full-time Executive Director for MCCS. Since the Shelter had been serving people from throughout the New River Valley the Board decided to change the organization’s name from MCCS to New River Family Shelter (NRFS). The name change officially took effect in January of 1998. At the same time, residents of the Christiansburg Shelter were reporting problems with the shelter structure. The Board elected to secure the services of a local engineering firm for an evaluation. It was determined that the foundation and supports were failing and the repairs would be cost prohibitive. As a result, the facility was sold. The proceeds from the sale are being held for the purchase of a new facility.

A group of ministers in Blacksburg became acutely aware of the number of working poor who are vulnerable to homelessness and increasing number of families living paycheck to paycheck in the NRV. After several preliminary meetings between the group of Blacksburg ministers, the Haven Advisory Council (HAC) was formed. In February of 1998, HAC and NRFS began discussing a coordinated effort with the Blacksburg community and the Blacksburg United Methodist Church to open an emergency shelter in Blacksburg. In March of 1998, representatives from the HAC met with members of the NRFS Executive Board to work out a merger.

In the Spring of 1998, the United Methodist Church of Blacksburg offered a home to lease. The NRFS Board and the HAC believed the house was a “good fit” because of its close proximity to the churches that would serve it and the Blacksburg Transit. The Blacksburg shelter was envisioned as a project that could be off the ground quickly to continue to help the homeless. Once the Blacksburg facility was in operation then NRFS would turn it’s attention to purchasing another facility. In July of 1998 NRFS applied for a Special Use permit with the Town of Blacksburg to use church property as an emergency shelter. In August of 1999 the Haven was physically prepared for service and approved by the Town Building Official because of the hard work of congregation and leadership of the United Methodist Church, its Missions Committee, NRFS volunteers, Board and Staff. The Haven can house two families.

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The Haven in Blacksburg

Temporary shelter in established shelter space includes the following: a two family house in Blacksburg called the Haven, a single-family house in Blacksburg called the Katharina von Bora Haus, a single-family mobile house in Christiansburg, and a single efficiency room in the Christiansburg/Shawsville area. Also, we recently opened a new single-family space in Christiansburg called the Father Scott House. St. Peters Anglican Catholic Church in Christiansburg, Blacksburg United Methodist Church in Blacksburg and Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Blacksburg are instrumental in providing some of our shelter space.

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Homelessness/Other Community Shelters

HomeAid project to build/renovate shelters
National Coalition for the Homeless
"homeless shelter" search by AltaVista
National Coalition for the Homeless Library Search

Other Related Organizations

Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program (MCEAP)
New River Community Action
United Way Volunteers

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Page coordinator: L. David Roper (roperld@vt.edu)