Helping those in urgent need
For decades, Vietnam War veteran Charles Klein has been a fixture on the front lines of the County’s partnership with a nonprofit to help Arlingtonians in dire need of same-day emergency financial assistance.
Klein volunteers with a small nonprofit called AMEN — Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs. Founded by concerned Arlington residents and faith community leaders, AMEN writes checks for rent, utilities, prescription costs and other urgent needs hours after clients are approved by the County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and/or other private organizations. The group has even paid for a cremation.
For more than two decades, Klein, 65, has been the man writing those checks. He stations himself in the entryway of the Department of Human Services at 4 p.m. and stays until 7 p.m., handing out checks that for many families mean the difference between keeping a roof over their heads or being homeless. “It keeps me off the street,” the bearded, taciturn Klein shrugs when asked why he has done this work for so long.
This year, as AMEN celebrates its 35th anniversary, Executive Director Geraldine Shannon says the organization faces ever greater demand for its services. Human Services staffers say they don’t know what they would do without AMEN and its ability to move quickly, with a minimum of red tape. The organization is funded through contributions from the County and private donors and foundations. “With the economic situation, we’re seeing people unemployed longer, in crisis longer,” said Heather Venner, a social work supervisor with DHS’ Community Assistance Bureau. “All kinds of things affect people’s ability to pay their rent. Without AMEN, the number of homeless families with children in our County would skyrocket.”