La Plata, MD – Lifestyles Inc. was founded in February of 1998 and since then has been providing services to those struggling in the Charles County area.

“We look at it as a one stop shop,” said founder and executive director, Sandy Washington. “Many folks refer to us as the non-profit social services because it’s kind of a mixture of everything. We really focus on an under-served population, primarily a large homeless population.”

According to Washington, many people stop by almost daily for the lunch that is provided to them by local volunteers free of charge. There are several other services that are provided in their La Plata office located at 101 Catalpa Drive, Suite 103 including showers and a laundry facility, a food pantry, clothing, a computer and phone access.

In order to help people during their job search Lifestyles will serve as an address to those that do not have one because one is required on job applications.

More information about their programs/services can be found here.

In addition to these services, Lifestyles headlines several housing programs in the community. This includes managing the Robert J Fuller Transitional House,  Martha’s House and Gail’s House, which is a safe house for victims of domestic violence, and Safe Nights.

Safe Nights is one of the most well known housing programs in the county and it runs from October to April and provides food and shelter to those in need.

This program’s needs are currently being featured on Southern Maryland Gives. Safe Nights provides a bed to all participants in their program and they are raising funds to purchase new cots.

The program is hosted by local churches. Every Sunday morning from Oct. 1 through April 14 the program is relocated to a different place of worship and volunteers from those locations help to run the program by serving meals, bagging lunches and spending time with the participants.

“The transition of (Safe Nights) has been remarkable,” said Washington. “We started out just trying to give people some shelter and then it started changing their lives. I see people now who were in this program nine years ago and you wouldn’t believe they would’ve ever been in this program. To be able to see that is unbelievable. When on the course of providing shelter you see changed lives you know this is definitely something greater than us that did all this.”

Washington said that throughout her years working with Lifestyles she has seen many people get back on their feet and turn their lives around.

In order to continue providing these services and programs to the community Lifestyles relies on the community to donate time as well as resources. One of their biggest fundraisers is a walk that will be held Nov. 21.

This is the 13th Annual Walk to End Homelessness in Charles County. It costs $25 to register and all proceeds go to the Safe Nights program.

Washington wants to create more communication between Lifestyles and the surrounding community, specifically churches where people in need will often go. She said that if someone in need says to a church that they went to Lifestyles and did not receive help she would like for the church to then contact Lifestyles so that they can find more information on why. Washington said that there are situations where Lifestyles will request that a person complete a few steps and take some responsibility for themselves rather than simply providing a handout.

“We don’t just tell people we can’t help them,” said Washington. “There has to be a reason and if the churches would call us then they would make better use of their benevolent funds and what they’re trying to do and then they could really help those folks who really could have used that help.”

Washington said that through this pipeline of communication through the community they could better serve those in need rather than creating a way for people to go from place to place collecting resources rather than working to get back on their feet.

Charity tracker is an online program that shows all the demographics and public information on those who are being helped by Lifestyles as well as other organizations that have registered. It shows the person who was helped as well as the assistance that was provided. This online program is free to all non-profits and faith based organizations.

“The more organizations that we get involved in that, the less likely we are to duplicate services,” said Washington. “It’s alright if you want to help someone who’s already been helped but help them knowing that they got that help.”

During the holidays Lifestyles provides Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to around 500 families in the surrounding community.

More information on Lifestyles Inc. and the programs and services provided can be found here.