Civic Federation Budget Proposal — The Arlington County Civic Federation has unanimously approved its own vision for the county’s budget. The Civic Federation’s budget proposal would hold the current real estate tax rate steady, while providing more money for schools and public safety, funding an inspector general position and eliminating 16 long-vacant county government positions. The Civic Federation also voted 30-12 for a motion calling on the county to close Rosslyn’s Artisphere by the end of the year unless significant progress is made in turning around the struggling cultural center’s finances. [Sun Gazette]
Streetcar Stalemate with Alexandria — Arlington County’s plan to build a streetcar line from Crystal City to Potomac Yard is facing resistance from Alexandria. While Arlington has financing for the streetcar lined up, Alexandria says they don’t have the money for a streetcar line — and would like the planned Crystal City/Potomac Yard transit corridor to remain a bus rapid transit system for the foreseeable future. [WAMU]
Thousands Sign Up for Housing Aid — Arlington County opened up its waiting list for federal Section 8 housing assistance for one day, after keeping the list closed for the past seven years. In that one day the county received 5,300 pre-applications from those seeking rent assistance. [Patch]
Fund Set Up to House the Homeless — The Arlington Community Foundation has announced a $500,000 private gift that will allow it to create a new fund for the 100 Homes campaign against homelessness. With a $500,000 match from Arlington County, the $1 million public/private partnership will be “dedicated to housing Arlington’s most vulnerable citizens.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
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.”
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.”
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.
Changes on Tap at Harry’s in Clarendon — Harry’s Tap Room (2800 Clarendon Blvd) is getting a new name and some new food. Renovations at the Clarendon restaurant are expected to begin later this month. When it reopens three weeks later, it will be re-branded as “Market Tavern” and will have a revised food focus. [Bisnow]
Discount on Signature Theater Tickets — Shirlington’s award-winning Signature Theater is offering 15 percent off tickets at the Signature box office when theater-goers present their library card. Two new Signature productions, A Second Chance and Hairspray, will start next month. [Arlington Public Library]
Housing for the Homeless — This week volunteers canvased the streets of Arlington in an effort to identify the 100 most vulnerable homeless individuals in the county. Part of the 100 Homes campaign, the results of the survey will be used to determine which chronically homeless persons will be moved to permanent housing. Findings from the surveys are being presented today to elected officials and to the public. [Washington Examiner, 100 Homes Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by divaknevil
The effort is part of the county’s 100 Homes Campaign, which will try to cut “chronic homelessness” in Arlington in half by July 2013. The campaign will place some of Arlington’s most medically-vulnerable homeless individuals — described as “those most likely to die if not housed quickly” — in permanent supportive housing.
The county is looking for volunteer surveyors, data entry personnel and headquarters staff to work from Oct. 17-19. Surveyors will be asked to go out in teams and interview homeless individuals from 3:30 to 7:30 a.m., while data entry will be done between 6:30 and 9:00 a.m. More information on volunteering can be found on the 100 Homes Arlington web site.
“We have made great strides in addressing homelessness in Arlington, but our work is far from complete,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “The 100 Homes Campaign brings important focus to helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community – those living on the streets.”
Arlington’s campaign, co-chaired by County Board member and state Senate candidate Barbara Favola and Shooshan Company president John Shooshan, is based on the national 100,000 Homes campaign.
(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 homeless population in Arlington fell by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to a new study.
An annual count of the region’s homeless conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed that region-wide, the homeless population rose by 2 percent to 11,988 as of January 2011. But the homeless population in Arlington declined from 531 to 461 during that same period, a drop of 13 percent.
The study found that there were 65 homeless families in Arlington, consisting of 81 adults and 112 children. Of the adults in homeless families, 38 percent are employed, according to the report.
Screen capture via YouTube
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
Arlington Schools Operating on Normal Schedule — Arlington Public Schools are operating under a normal schedule this morning, despite a combination of rain, snow and slush that’s making travel a bit tricky for drivers.
No word yet on whether students will be sent home early from school. Schools will close two hours early. Heavy snow is expected to start falling later this afternoon.
Homeless Count Scheduled for Today — Despite the inclement weather, volunteers are expected to head out to all corners of the county today to count the number of homeless individuals in Arlington. The count will be used to determine levels of federal and state aid, and to measure the effectiveness of the county’s homeless services. Among those participating in the count will be U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Heights Debates Next Neighborhood Project — The Arlington Heights Civic Association is taking suggestions on how to spend the next round of possible Neighborhood Conservation funds. [Pike Wire]
New Library Catalog System Coming Mid-February — Arlington Public Libraries will be rolling out a new online catalog system that includes a feature that sends you a text message when a book you had on hold becomes available. The system should launch mid-February. [Library Blog]
Penrose Square Ramps Up Marketing — The new Penrose Square apartments on Columbia Pike have a slick new web site. The site markets the apartments as “urban apartment homes” in a “LEED-influenced” building.” Residents are expected to start moving in in May. [Pike Wire]
Arlington Receives Homeless Prevention Grant – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $1.28 million in grant funding to Arlington for homeless assistance programs. The county is looking for a potential location for a permanent homeless shelter to replace its current emergency winter shelter in Courthouse. [Sun Gazette]
New Va. Dem Chair Moran Blasts Transportation Plan — New Virginia Democratic party chair Brian Moran is critical of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) plan to borrow billions to spend on transportation projects. “It’s frankly money we do not have,” he said on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live and work,” Moran added, after co-host Tom Sherwood jokingly suggested that the governor “obliterate Arlington and make a big interchange.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network is holding a Christmas Eve dinner for homeless individuals at the county’s Emergency Winter Shelter in Courthouse.
The non-profit issued the following press release about the event.
A-SPAN staff, local volunteers and community religious and business organizations have joined forces to serve a festive dinner at Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS), on Christmas Eve. A stuffed turkey has been donated by Temple Rodef Shalom and an assortment of pies and cookie plates for dessert has been donated by Harris Teeter. Dinner set up will begin at 5:30 pm and served to clients from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. The EWS is located at 2049 N. 15th Street, across from the Arlington Courthouse.
Early frigid temperatures have filled the EWS to an average capacity of 60 clients with over 3,000 bed nights so far this season, which began on November 1st and runs through March 31st, 2011. When temperatures reach 32 degrees, the shelter remains open for clients 24 hours. Regular EWS hours are 4:00 pm to 9:00 am, with dinner, showers, social services and breakfast provided.
A-SPAN provides life-sustaining services for Arlington’s homeless, which include daily street outreach, drop-in services such as showers, laundry, and food, and a bagged meal program serving up to 80 individuals 365 days a year. In addition, from November 1- March 31, A-SPAN operates the Arlington County Emergency Winter Shelter. The current economic and unemployment crisis has driven client numbers from 940 to 1740 this year. A-SPAN offers a wide variety of case management services through the Permanent Supportive Housing Program and the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which is funded by the Federal Stimulus.
Pentagon Metro Station Closed — The Pentagon Metro Station has been closed due to a suspicious package, reports Dr. Gridlock. Trains are still passing through the station.
Boy Scouts Enter Homeless Shelter Debate – At the county board meeting over the weekend, there was an unusual moment when a speaker used his time at the podium to ask questions rather than pontificate. That questioner was Spencer Cobb of Boy Scout Troop 167, who was inquiring about the possibility of a year-round homeless shelter as part of his citizenship project. There are 530 homeless individuals in Arlington, county officials estimate. More from the Sun Gazette.
Eventide General Manager Departs – Changes may be in the works at Clarendon’s Eventide restaurant, which just lost its general manager and bar manager to “differences” with restaurant partners. More from TBD.
SoberRide Nears Milestone — The regional SoberRide program, which funds free cab rides for people who’ve had too much to drink on certain holidays, is approaching its 50,000th ride. Organizers hope to reach that mark by New Year’s Day. Of note: Arlington’s Red Top Cab provides and staffs the call center that dispatches the cabs, a service worth nearly $50,000. More from the Washington Post.
Flickr pool photo by Reid Kasprowicz
The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which runs the shelter, gave the tour in advance of the group’s Community Walk for Homelessness. The group highlighted the shelter’s housing case management, nursing services and mental health services.
Also emphasized during the tour was A-SPAN’s big push for the funding and resources needed to operate the shelter year-round.
“Homelessness is not a five month issue, it’s a 12 month issue,” said Kathy Sibert, A-SPAN’s executive director. Newly re-elected congressman Jim Moran, who stopped by to offer words of encouragement, agreed.
The shelter can only stay open from Nov. 1 to March 31 due to insufficient funding and building code issues, Sibert said. If the shelter is to operate year-round, a new facility and additional funding must be obtained. A-SPAN is working with county staff and the county board to figure out a way to turn its vision of a year-round shelter into reality.
The current shelter facility is remarkably clean and well-kept — Sibert places an emphasis on cleanliness — but there’s no hiding the fact that it’s in an aging building that’s probably just a few years away from being torn down to make way for new development.