The local Point-in-Time Count is part of a nationwide count that occurs during the last 10 days in January each year. The census helps to highlight trends, justify requests for federal funding and measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.
Last year, the Point-in-Time count of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people dropped to 451. That’s down two percent from 461 in 2011.
“In this ‘great recession,’ the number of homeless people in Arlington has actually been trending downward for the last three years,” said A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert. “Arlington non-profits and the county have done a great job of connecting people with housing; and we hope this year’s count will be even lower now that the 100 Homes Campaign has already housed 47 homeless adults.”
From 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. todady, census teams will visit areas frequented by homeless individuals such as Metro stations, parks, malls and meal serving sites. Additionally, there are six indoor meeting places used for the count, and meals are served to encourage participation. Staff members will also distribute hygiene kits and socks donated by Marymount Women’s Basketball team.
“Survey questions go beyond headcounts and ask about instances of domestic abuse, veteran status, and disabilities in order to learn more about the specific homeless population in Arlington and what resources are needed,” said Sibert.
The annual report for Arlington’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was presented to the County Board yesterday (Tuesday). It showed that 708 individuals used Arlington homeless shelters at some time in 2012, which is a six percent increase over 2011. However, the average length of time a person stayed in shelter decreased by 28 percent. The average stay for homeless families showed the most significant improvement, dropping from an average stay of 5.4 months to three months.
“The goal of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness is that no individual or family lack access to decent, affordable housing,” said County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “That is a tall order in these troubled economic times, but this report, the progress we are making in housing Arlington’s most-at-risk homeless persons who were identified last year, and the County’s many programs aimed at getting those in need into housing shows that we intend to meet that goal.”
Arlington Small Business Saturday – This holiday weekend, in addition to today’s traditional Black Friday shopping bonanza, Arlington residents will be able to participate in “Arlington Small Business Saturday.” The day encourages Arlingtonians to shop and dine at small, local businesses this weekend. ”Your favorite retail, dining and online small businesses are participating and providing discounts or incentives on a variety of products and services,” according to organizers.
Retirement Ceremony for Therapy Dog – Bailey, a therapy dog at the Capital Hospice Halquist Center near Virginia Hospital Center, is retiring after 10 years of service to those who have life-limiting illnesses. A private retirement ceremony will be held for Bailey, a golden retriever, at the hospice center on Monday night. “Cider, special Goldrush brownies and dog treats will be served,” according to an online invitation.
Library Recovers from Database Crash — The electronic catalog and accounts system for Arlington Public Library and Arlington Public Schools is back up and running after crashing last Friday. “We are very pleased to report that our system is back online, along with research databases, and that most if not all data feared lost has been recovered and restored,” the library said on its web site. “Your privacy was never compromised. We are taking steps to prevent such an outage from happening again.” [Arlington Public Library]
Homeless Navy Vet Gets Apartment — Ernest Maas, a 61-year-old Navy veteran, is giving thanks this Thanksgiving weekend for the roof over his head. Maas got the keys to a new apartment in Arlington on Wednesday after spending the past three years homeless and living in the woods around Four Mile Run. The new apartment was coordinated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. [WJLA]
Arlington Hotels: Tax Us, Please — The Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington Tourism Coalition are hoping to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to reinstate the county’s hotel tax surcharge. The 0.25 percent tax on hotel rooms in Arlington generated nearly $1 million per year that went to tourism promotion efforts. State lawmakers declined to renew the tax last year in retaliation for Arlington’s fight against HOT lanes on I-395. [Sun Gazette]
Earlier this month, the 2012 National Conference on Ending Homelessness recognized Arlington County as one of 15 communities nationwide that are “on track” to end homelessness among the medically vulnerable within four years.
The claim is based on a benchmark set by the National Alliance to End Homelessness — cities or counties that moved 2.5 percent of their chronically ill homeless population into permanent housing each month made the list.
Arlington’s “100 Homes” campaign, a partnership with the nonprofit A-SPAN, put about 30 homeless people with life-threatening medical issues into permanent, federally-funded supported housing since starting up last October.
“It does actually cost the community a lot more to leave them homeless,” said A-SPAN Director of Development Jan-Michael Sacharko. “If you can keep people out of the emergency room, out of shelters, out of jails, you save a lot more money.”
The initiative, an outgrowth of the national “100,000 Homes” campaign, was cost-free, Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick said.
And it rallied significant volunteer support. About 180 volunteers went out at 4 a.m. for three days last fall to survey the homeless and check for those with hypothermia, chronic kidney disease, AIDS, HIV or other diseases.
“We’ve always had data on people who were homeless in Arlington,” Larrick said. “This was the most specific.”
Larrick said the survey found 113 “extremely vulnerable” homeless people. The 30 who moved into permanent housing did so with existing county and federal housing programs. Many are clients of A-SPAN, which provides individual case managers to track progress.
As of Arlington’s last count, which came in January, there are 451 homeless people on the streets and in homeless shelters, Larrick said.
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
Citizen Feedback on Streetcar Mostly Negative – The Washington Post counted all 270 citizen comments received by the Pike Transit Initiative regarding the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. Of the comments, 78 were “pro-streetcar,” 86 supported additional bus service instead of the streetcar, and 59 wanted no streetcar or no change. Our poll, conducted last week, found that 50 percent of respondents preferred the streetcar while 34 percent wanted articulated buses instead and 16 percent wanted no change. [Washington Post]
Arlington May Get ‘Drug Court’ – Arlington is seeking state approval to establish a “drug court.” The court would provide an alternative for dealing with nonviolent drug offenders. “It will help people who are in dire need of substance-abuse services, and will cut down on incarceration for folks who have substance-abuse issues only,” according to a supporter in the local Office of the Public Defender. [Sun Gazette]
A-SPAN Handing Out Water Bottles– Today the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) will embark on a “day of outreach” to determine the needs of the homeless living throughout Arlington. In addition to visiting the homeless where they live — areas including “Crystal City, National Airport, Rosslyn, and the wooded area near the Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island” — A-SPAN volunteers will be handing out more than 1,300 bottles of water, a gift from Ashlawn Elementary Students.
‘Sister Mary Ignatius’ Reviewed – Theater critic Terry Ponick takes a look at the American Century Theater production of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. The one-act play is being performed at Gunston Theatre II (2700 S. Lang Street) through July 7. [Washington Times]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
The grant — one of the $2.1 million in grants awarded by HUD in Virginia — will help A-SPAN and its “Open Doors” program provide housing and case management for six chronically homeless adults in Arlington over the next year. A-SPAN currently provides housing and case management for 24 chronically homeless adults who suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse.
“The clients we will house are those that have been homeless for many years and have been diagnosed with a mental illness and other severe health problems,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert said in a press release. “Despite those difficulties, we’ve shown that these clients can be successful, but they are our most vulnerable neighbors. Helping them get into housing is our main goal and what we’re working toward with the 100 Homes for 100 Homeless Arlingtonians Campaign.”
Nonprofits Ask for Funds at Budget Hearing — A public hearing on the county’s proposed tax rate changes is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. tonight. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s budget hearing was largely dominated by the pleas of nonprofits — those that help the homeless, provide affordable housing, work for the rights of immigrants, etc. — for full funding in FY 2013. In one particularly poignant moment, the executive director of the Arlington Street Peoples’ Assistance Network told County Board members that a homeless man who was found dead on Monday was an A-SPAN client and an Arlington native. [Sun Gazette, Patch]
Eventide Creates Cocktail for Cherry Blossom Fest — Eventide Restaurant (3165 Wilson Blvd) has created a specialty cocktail in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Bar manager Tim Irwin even created a video to show budding mixologists how to make his creation — the “Kyoto Cocktail” — which is made with Bison Grass Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Vanilla Syrup and Fresh Grapefruit Juice. [YouTube]
Lawmakers Ask for Solitary Confinement Probe — Del. Patrick Hope and Sen. Adam Ebbin of Arlington have joined Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria in writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking the federal government to investigate the alleged overuse of solitary confinement in Virginia. The Democratic state lawmakers say solitary confinement is in some cases being used as “a form of psychological torture.” [Washington Post]
New CFO for Artisphere — Artisphere has hired a new Chief Financial Officer. The new CFO will “manage the complexity of financial operations” at the Rosslyn arts venue. [Arlington Mercury]
Ovechkin Buys New House — Capitals star Alex Ovechkin may be ditching his $1.6 million home in Arlington’s Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood for some tonier digs. Ovechkin recently bought a $4.2 million, 11,000 square foot house in Fairfax County. He’ll have some extra time to get settled — the Capitals captain just decided to skip the NHL All-Star game after being suspended for three games. [ProHockeyTalk]
Grocery Store Bike Parking Guide — Need to do some grocery shopping, but worried about where to park your bike while you’re in the store? If so, the BikeArlington web site has just the resource for you: a complete guide to bike parking at 16 Arlington grocery stories. [BikeArlington]
Live Music Comes to Melody Tavern — Live music has come to Melody Tavern (3650 S. Glebe Road), a recently-opened music-themed restaurant/lounge near Potomac Yard in south Arlington. Live jazz and blues performances will start at Melody Tavern tonight, and will continue on nearly every night except Mondays through the end of February. The restaurant will also be holding a grand opening event from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m on Feb. 3. Arlington County granted Melody Tavern a live entertainment permit over the weekend. [Facebook]
Homeless Count Underway — An effort to provide a count of the number of homeless individuals living in Arlington County started at 4:00 this morning and will continue through midnight. The annual volunteer effort is being organized by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. “This local count is part of a nation-wide count that occurs during the last ten days in January in order to collect accurate data, understand trends, justify requests for federal funding, and measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness,” A-SPAN said.
Flickr pool photo by Alex
Arlington first publicly proposed the purchase of 2020 14th Street N. last month, saying that the building would help the county consolidate overflow office space, would facilitate the redevelopment of the Courthouse area, and would serve as the site of a long-desired comprehensive homeless service center. The homeless shelter would take up two floors of the seven-story building, which the county has valued at $25.5 million, and would replace the current emergency winter homeless shelter, located two blocks away.
Most of the several dozen people who spoke at last night’s marathon county board meeting stated their support for a year-round shelter. But the speakers were split between those who voiced support for 2020 14th Street being the site of that homeless shelter and a very vocal group — largely residents of the Woodbury Heights condominium, located next to the proposed shelter — who spoke out against it.
Concerns about safety and property values were the crux of the opposition to the proposed shelter.
“I just want to say that we’re not assholes… because that’s what it’s going to sound like,” said Woodbury Heights resident Meredith Fox. “I absolutely support, one million percent, helping homeless people getting full care. My issue… is safety. For any woman to enter our home, we are now going to have to walk by many [homeless] people who are standing outside.”
“Would you buy a [condo] right next to the homeless shelter?” asked resident Kerry Britton. “Maybe the one six blocks away looks better all of a sudden. If my property goes down 10 percent, that’s $42,000 for me and my husband.”
Britton noted that she and her self-described “NIMBY” neighbors all support the idea of a comprehensive homeless shelter — just not next to their condo.
“There are many other less expensive parts of the county where the homeless shelter and government offices can locate,” said resident Joanna Kim.
Other speakers against the shelter included a Woodbury Heights resident who broke down in tears as she described being sexually assaulted by a homeless man in a train station years earlier, and two young girls who said that, as Woodbury Heights residents, they worried about homeless individuals cursing, smoking and drinking on the street where they catch the bus to school.
“That may influence us to make poor choices later in life,” one of the girls said.
The intense opposition was counterbalanced by passionate supporters of the year-round homeless shelter, who made a strong showing at the board meeting.
Among the pro-shelter speakers were church pastors, representatives from community groups, a real estate developer, a business improvement district director, and volunteers from the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. A-SPAN runs the emergency winter shelter and would run the proposed year-round shelter.
“We are poised at a moment in Arlington’s history where we have the resources and we have the opportunity to do what is right and to do what is just,” said Rev. Tim Hickey, of the Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in south Arlington. “The measure of the values of any community can be seen in how they treat and deal with one another, but most importantly in how they treat and deal with those that are most vulnerable among them.”
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Arlington County’s plan to buy a Courthouse office building and place a year-round homeless shelter on two of the floors is drawing intense opposition from residents of a nearby condominium building.
Residents of the Woodbury Heights building (1301 N. Courthouse Road) have been distributing flyers (pictured), emailing officials and calling media outlets with a litany of concerns over the plan. Chief among them: worries about safety, property values and neighborhood “charm.”
“I work long hours, which often means I am in this area when it is dark,” said one female resident, in a letter to County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. “I would feel considerably less safe with the shelter’s entrance so close to what is in essence the front door of my home.”
“The shelter will drive down property values in the area, especially the values of the homes in Woodbury Heights,” the resident continued. “Considering the weak housing market, my home will be even less attractive and competitive to prospective buyers.”
Residents brought their concerns to a Tuesday night meeting with Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier and Kathy Sibert of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which runs the current emergency winter shelter and would run the new shelter.
Sibert said the meeting was “very emotional” for residents but added that she can understand the worries.
“Anytime there’s a change in your neighborhood, you’re very, very concerned, and I understand that,” said Sibert, A-SPAN’s Executive Director. “What I can assure them is that we will have staff there 24/7, and they will have our number, and we will be their neighbor, and we will address any concern they have.”
Sibert pointed out that the office building, at 2020 14th Street N., is directly across the street from the entrance to Arlington County Police headquarters, and only two blocks from the emergency winter shelter. By being open year-round, she continued, the shelter will actually keep homeless individuals off the streets of Courthouse.
“The design… is such that there will be less loitering, less homeless living on the street,” Sibert said. “The police are literally across the street. That can’t get any safer. And we have a really good working relationship with the police.”
Rosslyn will hold its annual holiday light-up night on Thursday. The event will feature speeches, music, free food and drink, and a winter clothing collection drive in front of the WJLA Jumbotron at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and N. Lynn Street.
From a press release:
The Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID), Artisphere and Arlington Cultural Affairs welcome the 2011 holiday season with the 18th Annual LIGHT UP Rosslyn ceremony on Thursday, December 1, from 5:15 p.m.–6:30 p.m. NewsChannel 8 Anchor Morris Jones will host the evening’s outdoor festivities in front of the WJLA Jumbotron, located at 1100 Wilson Blvd. Arlington County Board Chair Christopher Zimmerman will offer remarks and then share the honors with Jones and Rosslyn BID Board President Peter Greenwald as they flip a giant switch to light up the Rosslyn skyline. The musical groups Beltway Brass and Snowday will perform holiday favorites, and Santa Fe Café will offer complimentary hot cocoa and chili.
The rooftops of nearly 40 properties will be illuminated. Rosslyn commercial and residential property owners whose buildings will be part of the 2011 LIGHT UP include, Beacon Capital, Clover Management, The JBG Companies, Key Bridge Marriott, London House, Monday Properties, Normandy House, Paramount Group, Penzance Companies, Tishman Speyer, River Place, Virginian Suites, Vornado, Waterview and Weissberg Corporation.
“It’s great to have so many Rosslyn property owners participating in this festive event,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christopher Zimmerman. “The Rosslyn BID does a wonderful job of kicking-off the holiday season with LIGHT UP Rosslyn while helping individuals in need through the annual clothes drive.”
LIGHT UP Rosslyn also serves as the final collection point for warm winter clothing, which the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) will distribute to clients who need it most. Rosslyn BID Ambassadors will be on hand to receive new or gently used winter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, socks and jeans. This year’s winter clothing drive began on November 7, when the Rosslyn BID placed collection bins in offices and residential buildings around Rosslyn.
Photo by Steve Uzzell/Rosslyn BID
Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter, which gives the homeless a warm place to sleep during the coldest months of the year, will open for the season tonight.
The 88-bed shelter, located at 2049 15th Street N. in Courthouse, remains open from Nov. 1 through March 31. Operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, the shelter provides not only a place to sleep and meals to eat, but case management, nursing and mental health services.
“The Emergency Winter Shelter has been protecting homeless persons from winter’s cold since 1991,” said Anita Friedman of the county’s Department of Human Services. “In recent years, we have expanded the EWS’s capacity and additional safety plans we can turn to in extreme situations such as last year’s ‘Snowmageddon.’”
Friedman noted that Arlington County is working to “eliminate homelessness altogether” through its 100 Homes initiative.
Construction Planned for New Penrose Square Park — Construction is set to begin on a new public park in front of the Penrose Square apartment building on Columbia Pike. Included in the park will be a 50-ton granite sculpture of a “concave elliptical parabola.” [Pike Wire]
Free Pizza Offer — For some reason, Papa John’s and the Washington Post are giving away thousands of free pizzas over the next three days. Papa John’s has three Arlington locations. [The Capitol Deal]
A-SPAN Launches ‘Street Soccer’ Team — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network has set up a soccer team for its homeless clients. The team was created as part of the Street Soccer USA program. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Christaki
(Updated at 9:00 a.m.) Arlington and the rest of the D.C. region is under a heat advisory from noon to 8:00 p.m., as temperatures are expected to soar this afternoon.
Forecasters are predicting a high temperature of 96 degrees, with heat index values reaching into the 100s. Some forecasts even have the temperature hitting 100 today.
As a result of the dangerous heat, Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management issued the following advice this morning.
A HEAT ADVISORY MEANS THAT A PERIOD OF HOT TEMPERATURES IS EXPECTED. THE COMBINATION OF HOT TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL COMBINE TO CREATE A SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE POSSIBLE. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS…STAY IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM…STAY OUT OF THE SUN…AND CHECK IN ON RELATIVES AND NEIGHBORS.
TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS IF YOU WORK OR SPEND TIME OUTSIDE. WHEN POSSIBLE…RESCHEDULE STRENUOUS ACTIVITIES TO EARLY MORNING OR EVENING. KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION AND HEAT STROKE. WEAR LIGHT WEIGHT AND LOOSE FITTING CLOTHING WHEN POSSIBLE AND DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.
TO REDUCE RISK DURING OUTDOOR WORK…THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDS SCHEDULING FREQUENT REST BREAKS IN SHADED OR AIR CONDITIONED ENVIRONMENTS. ANYONE OVERCOME BY HEAT SHOULD BE MOVED TO A COOL AND SHADED LOCATION. HEAT STROKE IS AN EMERGENCY – CALL 9 1 1.
In response to the heat, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network is opening its main office at 2708-B S. Nelson Street early, at 9:30 this morning. Homeless individuals will be able to go inside the office to get cool.
A-SPAN is requesting donations of bottled water to distribute to those remaining on the street. The organization is also requesting assistance in locating any street person who may be suffering from a heat-related medical condition. A-SPAN can be reached at 703-820-4357.
“It’s very important that we get people indoors today,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert said in a statement. “The extreme heat is just as deadly as the extreme cold of winter and that’s why we’re opening up so much earlier today. If possible, when you go out today, bring an extra bottle of water with you and share it with someone on the street.”
Photo courtesy A-SPAN
The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network is asking Arlingtonians to help them win a new van.
A-SPAN is one of 500 finalists in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good contest, which is awarding a new vehicle to 100 charitable organizations over the course of 100 days. Each day, the public can vote for one of five nonprofits via Toyota’s Facebook page.
Today, A-SPAN is up against organizations like a Florida arts center, an Illinois animal shelter, a Connecticut HIV/AID clinic and the large, nationwide service organization City Year.
“We are very excited to participate in this contest and have the chance to win a new van for outreach. We are placing more people into housing than ever before, but the first step for each of these formerly homeless people was an A-SPAN outreach staff person finding and building a connection with them,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert said in a statement. “A new van will help us with this, please encourage all of your friends to vote too!”
A-SPAN has also released a video (after the jump) explaining how a van would help the organization. Vote for them here.
Arlington County’s emergency winter shelter is now closed, and the dozens of homeless individuals who stay there will be looking for a new place to sleep tonight.
About 50 percent of the shelter’s clients will stay in Arlington County over the summer, according to shelter director Olivia Payton. Most others will go to Fairfax, Bailey’s Crossroads, Alexandria and the District, where shelters remain open year-round.
Those who do stay in Arlington will sleep in parks, under bridges, and in wooded encampments. John Rotalsky, who slept at the shelter last night, said he will likely sleep in an encampment near Gateway Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail in Rosslyn tonight.
“We can go to the national parkland, stay there at night, and pack out in the daytime,” he said. “They let us do that.”
Rotalsky, whose religious convictions are documented in a recent online video, said the service provided to the homeless in Arlington “is a huge blessing.”
“Arlington County is just light years better than anything else in this area,” Rotalsky said. “I have not been threatened in the three and a half months that I have been living there. No one has tried to shake me down or rob me, and that’s normal stuff in D.C. shelters.”
The county mandates that the shelter only remain open from Nov. 1 to March 31. The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), which runs the shelter, has been pushing for a year-round shelter in Arlington for some time now. Such a shelter is needed, especially during spring cold snaps and summer heatwaves, they say. The County Board formally set the goal of establishing a new, year-round shelter last month. First, however, a location for the new shelter must be found.
While A-SPAN does not operate a shelter in the warmer weather months, it still provides services via volunteers who travel the county bringing food and supplies to homeless individuals and through its Opportunity Place headquarters in Shirlington. A-SPAN also tries to place homeless individuals into permanent housing, but those resources are limited.
Rotalsky says he looks forward to the day when the county is able to open a year-round shelter.
“It’s a real treat staying here at the A-SPAN shelter,” he said. “I don’t want to leave.”
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief