By Arya Hodjat | [email protected]
CORRECTION: In the original version of this article, the Times incorrectly stated that there are 10 beds in Friends of Guest House’s headquarters, and 26 overall in the program. In reality, there are 9 beds in their headquarters, and 25 overall. The Times regrets the error.
Friends of Guest House, an Alexandria nonprofit that supports women recently released from incarceration, is set to expand its services after a city council vote Tuesday evening.
Council voted unanimously to loan $145,000 to Friends of Guest House to go towards renovating the organization’s newest property at 120 S. Payne St. Friends of Guest House provides women with housing, supervision and support as they work to reenter the community after being incarcerated, according to its website.
Since it was founded in 1974, the organization has helped more than 3,000 women, many of whom had been indicted for drug, property or public order offenses. When completed, the South Payne Street property will be able to house 21 women.
The building will replace four Friends of Guest House apartments – 16 beds in the residential program – and allow the organization to add five beds. With 9 beds at the organization’s headquarters at East Luray Avenue, the new property will allow Friends of Guest House to expand its overall membership from 25 to 31 women at a time, according to Kari Galloway, the executive director of Friends of Guest House.
Galloway said the program receives about 400 applicants each year. While they currently serve between 55 and 60 women each year, the new building will allow them to accept between 60 and 70 applicants.
“[Our] demand far outstrips our capacity,” Galloway said. “We’re kind of struggling with office space.”
She recounted the story of two women who applied to the program and had to be turned away due to a lack of space. She later found they had died of opiate overdoses.
“It’s pretty awful,” Galloway said.
Galloway said the South Payne Street property is in a better location than the four apartments it will replace, as it is in Old Town and has access to local business and transportation options such as the King Street Metro Station.
Friends of Guest House is exploring options to expand in Virginia, Galloway said.
In 2018, a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia found that women in the state were being imprisoned at a higher rate than men, as well as women nationwide.
“Virginia’s leading the charge, and not in a good way,” Galloway said. “Our justice – or, rather, injustice – system … it’s set up to be punitive, rather than restorative.”