Guest Column

LINK of Hampton Roads, Inc. (LINK) is a nonprofit agency that has served the Virginia Peninsula’s unsheltered population since October 1991. The CANLINK permanent supportive housing initiative is a primary component of the LINK service delivery system. 

Beginning in 2004, CANLINK’s 66-household, HUD-funded permanent supportive housing program has transitioned hundreds of the Peninsula’s most vulnerable citizens from homelessness to affordable, safe permanent housing. CANLINK has served unsheltered individuals and families in which the head of the household has a documented disability. Housing selection and location vary to meet participant needs. 

Housing units include apartments, townhouses and single-family homes in Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, York County, James City County and Poquoson. CANLINK is a low-barrier model, meaning there are no minimum income requirements, credit or criminal history restrictions. It is a true second-chance program. A primary difference between traditional subsidized housing and permanent supportive housing is the ongoing, intensive case management that is provided. Case management services assess strengths and needs, develop housing plans, provide advocacy and monitor success toward housing stability and independent living goals.

LINK actively seeks opportunities to assist CANLINK participants with becoming productive members of society. Work-capable program participants are assisted with completion of online job applications, resume development and interview coaching. Volunteer positions within the agency are available to assist with professional development. Participants are regularly provided employment leads and job fair information. LINK partners with vocational training providers to assist participants eligible for supported employment. Participants with criminal history barriers are linked to community ex-offender employment opportunities. 

CANLINK partners with families to ensure each child is active in the school system. School attendance and grades are monitored. CANLINK has celebrated high school graduations, military inductions and college enrollments. Children and adults are provided with frequent socialization opportunities. 

LINK offers organized recreational activities, holiday celebrations with gift drives for the families and a monthly tenant support and children’s play group. CANLINK would not be able to operate without strong community collaboration. It frequently houses tenants without income, who often present with very few, if any, household items. CANLINK provides furniture, food, clothing and household supplies as needed, most of which is provided through the generosity of community donations and partner agencies. 

With the anchor of safe, affordable housing, wonderful things can happen! CANLINK participants have transformed their lives simply by having the things that many of us take for granted. Owning and sleeping in a bed, access to basic home appliances and facilities for grooming, the safety of a front door that locks and having a mailing address can be life changing. Through the CANLINK program, the staff at LINK had the honor of supporting individuals and families on their journey from homelessness to independence. CANLINK alumni have successfully worked their way back to family reunification, home ownership, self-supporting employment and small business ownership. Life transformation is not easy and for many it might not have been/may not be doable without CANLINK services and support. 

About Sister David Ann Niski 13 Articles
Sister David Ann Niski is executive director of the Bernadine Franciscan Sisters Foundation. A strong advocate and supporter of the Virginia Peninsula not-for-profit agencies, she can be reached at 757-886-6025 or by e-mail at