For 20 years before that, Hill, who served in New Mexico, Italy and Nuremburg, Germany, was chronically homeless. He had lived on family’s couches and floors, and when he could no longer do that, he slept on the streets of D.C., in shelters in Alexandria and in 24-hour laundromats along Columbia Pike. There were nights he slept in Reagan National Airport, he said; anywhere with a roof and unlocked doors.
Last June, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, after working with Hill for months getting his finances and documentation in order, found Hill an apartment, secured housing subsidies and provided support to make sure he sustained himself there.
“Housing is the key to ending homelessness,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathy Sibert told ARLnow.com from her office yesterday. “A lot of the things people take for granted, but just getting up, getting a meal, having clean clothes, maintaining your hygiene, that can take an hour when you’re in a home. When you live on the streets, it could take all day.”
Now, Hill has a place to live and a place to take care of his infant son, who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock attention.
Hill’s plight was far from unique in Arlington and around the country. January’s point-in-time homeless count revealed there are 239 homeless individuals and family in the county, 19 of whom are veterans. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), 12 percent of all homeless people in the U.S. are veterans, about 50,000 total on any given night.
“You come out [of the military] and you’re lost,” Hill said. “In the Army, everyone did everything for you. You didn’t develop skills you need to make your own decisions.”
Homlessness becomes the new normal, he said. Waking up, finding the places that are giving out food, panhandling for money to buy drinks, and finding a safe sleeping spot; all of it becomes a routine that is increasingly difficult to break.
“You can try to change, but for veterans will mental issues, it just takes one incident of something not happening for you, and you go right back into that mode,” he said. Even for homeless people with jobs, finding a place to live is not as easy as it sounds.
To get an apartment, you need valid ID, and proof of income. Hill, who had no need for a car and no place to store files, needed to get a valid ID. For that, he needed a birth certificate, another piece of documentation lost with his home. He needed to apply for a copy of the birth certificate and a copy of his social security cards. All of the ID applications cost money — money he did not have.
That, he said, is how he wound up on the streets for the better part of two decades. Once he relocated himself to Arlington, he immediately found A-SPAN, and the nonprofit immediately got to work finding him a home.
“Veterans don’t broadcast to each other ‘this is where you find the help you need,'” Hill said. “But when I came to Arlington, everyone knew A-SPAN.”
Last year, Arlington completed its successful 100 Homes campaign, housing more than 100 of its chronically homeless. It was part of a nationwide 100,000 homes campaign, which, when it concluded last June, wound up housing 108,000 people. Hill was honored with a ceremony in D.C. — he was the 100,000th person housed in the campaign.
During her monthly report to the Arlington County Board yesterday, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the results form the count show an 18 percent decline in its overall homeless population from 2014, and a 34 percent drop in homeless families.
The count was conducted overnight from Jan. 28 to 29, and conducted in tandem with other jurisdictions around the region. While it’s not a perfect metric, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network Executive Director Kathy Sibert said, the numbers are still worth celebrating.
In 2013, the count tallied 479 total homeless people in Arlington. In 2015, there were 239.
Many of those counted were staying in shelters or other temporary housing. The most dramatic number is 39, the number of unsheltered individuals counted in January. In 2013, that number was 146, good for a 73 percent decline. Sibert said those numbers can be directly attributed to the successful “100 Homes Campaign” in the county last year.
“The big thing is it’s such a cost-savings to all of the citizens,” Sibert said. “A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates it costs communities up to $45,000 to provide care to someone on the streets, compared to only $22,000 when they’re housed.
Donnellan also revealed Tuesday that the county’s year-round Homeless Services Center will open in June, construction permitting. It had originally been slated for opening last fall. When it opens, the shelter will provide 50 permanent beds, 25 beds in the winter, five medical beds for homeless people released from the hospital, as well as a full kitchen and classrooms for job training.
“We focused on getting those medically vulnerable people on the streets into housing,” Sibert said. “That’s how you end homelessness. To end homelessness, you’ve got to get them into housing, so that’s what we’ve done.”
Advocates Decry Proposed Bike Cut — An optional budget cut floated by Arlington County Manger Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2015-2016 budget is attracting some push back from cyclists. Donnellan said the County Board should consider a $800,000 cut in funds for the county’s BikeArlington program if it wants to make additional cuts beyond her base budget. Bike advocates say the cut “would be a huge mistake.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Condo Fence Mowed Down — A car ran through the fence of a condominium complex next to Long Branch Elementary School Sunday evening. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Resident Survey to Be Mailed — Arlington County is planning to mail its fourth resident survey to 3,600 randomly selected residents. “This survey will help us find out how we’re doing across many different service areas – and also pinpoint where we need to improve,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. [Arlington County]
Custis Trail Added to Beer Guide — A guide intended to show D.C. area cyclists where they can grab craft brews near local trails has added Arlington’s Custis Trail to its directory. [Bikeable Brews]
A-SPAN To Help Meet Homeless Goals — Arlington County has signed on to a pair of ambitious goals: to house all homeless veterans in the community by the end of 2015 and end chronic homelessness by 2016. The Arlington Street People’s Network, the nonprofit organization that will be running Arlington’s soon-to-open year-round homeless shelter, is preparing to do its part to help achieve those goals. [InsideNova]
Daycare Owner Sorry for Leaving Child Outside — An Arlington home daycare owner says she’s sorry for leaving a three-year-old girl outside in the rain and cold without a jacket or shoes. Police were called to the home after neighbors say they heard the girl crying and trying to get back in the home. [WJLA]
Arlington Teacher Surprised by Award — Barrett Elementary School teacher Joshua McLaughlin was surprised Tuesday afternoon when he was presented the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award during a school-wide assembly. McLaughlin is one of eight teachers to win the award along with a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 classroom supply credit. [Arlington Public Schools]
A-SPAN Making Progress on 100 Homes Initiative — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network continues to make progress on its 100 Homes initiative. So far A-SPAN has placed 87 formerly homeless individuals into housing, including 12 chronically homeless veterans. [Falls Church News-Press]
Westover Farmers Market Starts Summer Hours — The Westover Farmers Market will begin its summer hours on Sunday, May 4. The market will be open an hour earlier than the winter market, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [Westover Farmers Market]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
County Seeks “Great Design” Nominations — Arlington County’s is accepting submissions for great design in new construction, renovations, additions or adaptive re-use projects. It’s part of the biennial design awards program, DESIGNArlington, which recognizes people who do design work that enhances the county’s built environment. Applications can be submitted online until 5:00 p.m. on December 2. An independent panel of architecture, urban design, historic preservation, public art and landscape design professionals will examine the nominations and select several winners. Previous winners include Northside Social, the Reed School/Westover Library, and the Gleason/Pries residence. [Arlington County]
Preservation Arlington Highlights Bruner Home — This week, Preservation Arlington looks at the Brumer house in its “Preserved and Developed” series. In 1934, Dr. Roland Bruner purchased the property at 2018 S. Glebe Road in the Nauck neigbhorhood. Only two black doctors had been practicing in Arlington at that time, so Brumer opened a private practice in his house to help serve the black community. He worked up until his death in 1978, and a historical marker now stands near his home. [Preservation Arlington]
Close Election Could Benefit VA DREAM Act — Fresh off a victory in Tuesday’s election, Del. Alfonso Lopez plans to make enactment of the DREAM Act his number one priority for the Virginia General Assembly session. It appears the narrow victories of Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) and Del. Thomas Rust (R) may help the prospects for such legislation. Lopez and Rust had combined similar pieces of legislation last year that made it through the House Committee on Education on a 17-4 vote, but stalled because the House Appropriations Committee did not act on the measure before the session ended. If the bill makes it to McAuliffe, he is expected to sign it into law. [Sun Gazette]
Rosslyn BID Collects and Donates Marine Corps Marathon Clothing — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) collected and redistributed 968 pounds of clothes to the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN). The clothes were items such as hats, gloves, sweatshirts and pants that runners shed while passing through Rosslyn during the Marine Corps Marathon on October 27. The BID had the clothing cleaned and gave it to A-SPAN to distribute to people in need.
Monument Lights to Be Turned Off — The decorative scaffolding lights on the Washington Monument will be turned off today, as repairs on the monument wrap up and the scaffolding is prepared for being taken down. [Washington Post]
Georgetown Scraps Satellite Dorm Plan — A plan that might have resulted in Georgetown University students being housed in Clarendon has been scrapped due to overwhelming opposition from students. The university will instead find a way to house more students on campus. [The Hoya]
Winter Coat Drive in Rosslyn — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District is collecting coats and other outerwear starting today. The donations will benefit the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. [Sun Gazette]
Free Flu Shots Tomorrow — Arlington County will be giving out free flu shots as part of a “public health emergency preparedness exercise” on Tuesday. The shots will be distributed between 7:00 and 11:00 a.m. at the Washington-Lee High School cafeteria. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
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.”