Below is a letter from a former resident of the Brisben Center emergency shelter who remembers what it is like to hit rock bottom. She also knows what it takes to get back up. Today, Ms. Coates is a thriving businesswoman who is passionate about helping people recover from the traumas and challenges of homelessness.
My name is Januari Coates. Today, I am a successful real estate agent and broker in the VA, DC, and MD markets. Last year, I sold my first million-dollar property. Recently, I received my instructor’s license to teach the Pre-Licensing Virginia Salesperson class and have established my own training center in Fredericksburg. I am the proud owner of Stepping With Leaders Inc., a local brokerage on Lafayette Blvd.
In the late 1990s, I was 19, pregnant with my second child, single, unemployed, and homeless. People are surprised when I tell them this, but it’s not hard to imagine a young adult—little more than a child—who is confused, arrogant, angry, scared, getting battered by the world and sinking deeper into trouble. Like thousands of others, each with their own unique story, I walked through the doors of the Brisben Center.
What I remember most is how much the staff believed in me. I was not a homeless person to them. I was a young woman, certainly troubled, but with the capability and drive to make it on my own. They did not coddle me.
They guided and challenged me to reach for goals that would make me proud of myself. Not long afterward, I had a job, car, apartment, GED, and a path forward.

I have never forgotten the Brisben Center’s kindness and skillfulness in my time of need. Nor can I forget the images and tragic stories of my fellow travelers, some of whom I am still in touch with. Last year, along with family and friends, I provided and cooked 12,000 individual meals for shelter residents. This year, we’re on track to double that. I solicit financial contributions from clients and colleagues, and donate a portion of every commission.

I warmly invite you to contribute generously, as well, to support the sacred work and extraordinary approach of the Brisben Center—where you are not a problem to be solved, but a precious life to be made the most of.

With kind regards,

Januari Coates
Founded in 1988, the Brisben Center has provided shelter and hand-up services to over 7,000 people since 2005—many of them young mothers like Januari. Please consider a generous gift to help them find not just shelter, but a viable path out of poverty altogether. Thank you!
There are several ways to give:
  • Go to our website,
  • Send a check payable to the “Brisben Center” in the enclosed envelope.
  • Make your contribution through United Way CFC #63436. The Brisben Center is a United Way partner agency.
  • Donate when you shop! Use AmazonSmile and make the Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter your chosen charitable organization.
  • Ask if your employer will match your gift.
  • Remember the Brisben Center in your estate planning.

The Brisben Center is helping homeless individuals and families rebuild their lives - from surviving to thriving.
The Brisben Center | 540-899-9853 | |