I need your help.
I’ve written before about Trudy Harsh, an inspirational local advocate who began buying houses in Fairfax County, Virginia for persons with brain disorders after her daughter died. Trudy’s non-profit group, The Brain Foundation, buys the houses and the county’s mental health agency provides tenant services. It’s a win-win combination in a county where a person with a mental illness can wait 18 years before an apartment becomes available.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is demanding that Trudy pay $14,413 in property taxes on four of her houses. The Brain Foundation’s other three houses are located in Fairfax City — but officials there have agreed to “forgive” $10,883 in annual property taxes because they recognize the homes are being used for a charitable cause that is worthy of public support.
The Fairfax Supervisors are worried that if they grant a wavier to the Brain Foundation, they could be “opening the floodgates” to other charitable housing groups.
Floodgates? Really? With an 18 year wait — is this a valid concern? If we can help provide more low income and transitional housing by following Trudy’s lead, then I say, bust that damn wide open.
I am certain the county has some sharp witted attorney on its staff who can write a tax exemption that will apply only to the Brain Foundation if the Supervisors are truly worried.
The Brain Foundation houses currently houses 28 people, including three tenants who were homeless, including one who came from a country run shelter. Housing those three tenants has saved the county more than the $14,000 in taxes that it is trying to squeeze out of Trudy’s shoe string group.
This should be a no-brainer for the supervisors.
So how can you help?
Trudy and her supporters are launching a grassroots campaign to educate the board and change its members’ minds. The last time I checked, there were 70 persons in a state run mental hospital located in Fairfax County who were well enough to be discharged but had not place to go. Advocates, such as Trudy, are trying to change that.
Please show your support by sending an email to the supervisors or by telephoning Supervisor Sharon Bulova’s office at 703-324-2321. Tell the board that you are in favor “forgiving” the property taxes for the Brain Foundation’s four properties in Fairfax County because persons with mental illness deserve a safe place to live!
It will only take a second. Here are the email addresses. You can just send one email to Chairwoman Bulova and copies to the others. If you don’t know what to write, send this blog and tell them that you support Trudy!
Chair Sharon S. Bulova <[email protected]>
John C. Cook, Braddock District E-mail: [email protected]
Penelope A. Gross, Vice Chairman, Mason District E-mail: [email protected]
Gerald W. Hyland, Mount Vernon District E-mail: [email protected]
John W. Foust, Dranesville District E-mail: [email protected]
Linda Q. Smyth, Providence District E-mail: [email protected]
Jeffrey C. McKay, Lee District E-mail: [email protected]
Pat Herrity, Springfield District E-mail: [email protected]
Michael R. Frey, Sully District E-mail: [email protected]
After you send your email, circulate this blog to your friends and ask them to do the same!
[Washington Post journalist Tom Jackman, who keeps a close eye on Northern Virginia, mentioned this blog post on the Washington Post site a few hours after it ran. You can read comments at his blog . Tom also kindly reminded me that I had lifted the photo of Trudy from his blog at the Washington Post. He was the photographer and deserves credit for it and for helping call attention to Trudy’s Brain Foundation. Thanks Tom!)
Here is a blog that I wrote on Mother’s Day in May 2010 about Trudy and why she began the Brain Foundation.
We talk all of the time about being helpless to change our system. Don’t be. Act. Trudy did.
FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: A MOTHER LOST A DAUGHTER BUT IS HELPING OTHERS ONE HOUSE AT A TIME
Today is Mother’s Day and I would like to tell you about an extraordinary mother who also is an amazing mental health advocate. Her name is Trudy Harsh and she lives in Fairfax, Virginia.
Trudy’s daughter, Laura, developed a brain tumor when she was eight years old. Doctors at Georgetown Hospital in Washington D.C. were able to remove it, but they warned Trudy that Laura would only live for six more years at best.