(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) At its meeting on Saturday, Nov. 17, the County Board unanimously approved the controversial acquisition of an office building (2020 14th Street N.) in Courthouse that will house county offices and a homeless shelter.
The shelter, which will occupy two of the building’s seven floors, will be open year-round and will replace the current emergency winter shelter, located about two blocks away. Like the winter shelter, it will be operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).
“Arlington is making good on its declaration that in this county, every person is important” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. “It’s not enough to merely provide beds in an inadequate emergency winter shelter during the coldest months of the year. It is not enough just to keep the homeless alive. We want to give them an opportunity to rebuild their lives.”
County staff recommended the Board approve the deal, because they found that particular building to be most suitable for county offices and storage. Staff members also said they found a portion of the building adequate for renovating into a homeless shelter, to replace the emergency winter shelter located at 2049 15th Street N.
County staff had been working to reach a purchase agreement with the property owner since November 2010, and last year the County Manager was authorized to acquire the property for $25.5 million by purchase or eminent domain. The price finalized at the Board meeting on Saturday was more than $27 million. Staff said although the cost is greater than the county’s appraisal, it’s less than the seller’s appraisal.
More than a dozen people took turns speaking to the Board about the controversial issue, both in favor of and against the building purchase.
Kip Laramie, who owned Santa Fe Cafe (1500 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn, said he hasn’t had trouble with homeless people at any of his businesses in Arlington throughout the years. He likes the idea of helping homeless people and giving them a place to go.
“The homeless population was much lower when the emergency winter shelter is open than when it’s closed,” Laramie said. “It would be nice to have that year round lower level of people on the streets.”
Safety was a concern of many residents who live near the shelter.
“I don’t care if my property values go down, what I care about are people outside of my building threatening the safety of my wife and my daughter,” said Nathan Kleekam. Supporters of the homeless shelter argued that the shelter’s location — directly across from Arlington police headquarters — will actually improve safety. Also, they say, A-SPAN has done a good job of addressing safety concerns with the existing shelter.
Another topic of concern was the financial impact of the county purchasing the property.
“I’m not necessarily against the homeless shelter. I do think $25 million in order to build the homeless shelter is quite a lot of money, considering that Arlington County is having a very difficult time building enough schools to educate its children,” Kleekam said.
One common theme that emerged was that neighbors did not feel the county had taken adequate steps to work with them throughout the entire process. Some residents said the county did not do a good job of notifying them about meetings regarding the building purchase.
At its meeting next Saturday (November 17), the Board will examine the purchase contract for the building (2020 14th St. N.), which has an expected purchase price of $27.1 million. County staff estimates the total project cost at approximately $42 million over five years, factoring in additional costs for design, renovation, and tenant relocation.
As far as funding for the project, the county said the following in a press release:
Includes $20 million of revenue bonds issued through the Arlington County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), $12 million of previously approved Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) funding, and $6 million from Fiscal Year 2012 close-out funds. In approving the property acquisition, the County Board will also be asked to approve a temporary loan of $20 million from the Utilities Fund PAYG account to the General Fund PAYG account. This will be a temporary “bridge” loan, which will be reimbursed by the issuance of IDA revenue bonds. Funding for the $4 million in out-year costs is not proposed for County Board action at this time. Staff will request these funds once floors 4-7 of the building are available and renovations can take place.
If the measure is approved, the county expects to acquire title to the property at a closing on November 20. More information about the project is available on its website.
More from the county’s press release:
Acquiring 2020 14th St. N. will help the County government meet immediate space needs and provide the flexibility needed to support growing community needs. For ease of public access and efficiency, it is important that the County government’s office space and staff be located in the Courthouse area, which is the center of County government operations.
If the County Board approves the County’s acquisition of the property at 2020 14th Street N., County staff will host a series of public discussions and workshops to solicit input on certain physical and operational aspects of the property, including elements relating to the homeless services center.
Community dialogue: The first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2012, 7-9:30 p.m. at Key Elementary School. At this session, County staff will be listening to community questions and concerns. The result of this initial session will be community-generated input, ideas and preferences that County staff and building designers can use during the design and operational planning phases of the project.
Workshop: At the second meeting, an interactive workshop scheduled for Dec. 17, 2012 (7-9:30 p.m.) at Key Elementary, participants will be able to review draft building and operational plans, which will incorporate input from the first meeting. Participants will have the opportunity to provide further suggestions at that meeting.
Design review: The third meeting, scheduled for Jan. 14, 2013 (7-9:30 p.m.) at Key Elementary, will include a presentation of the County’s final plans.
Concurrent with these meetings, the County will solicit input on aspects of the project through its PLACE/OpenArlington online virtual town hall meeting website.
The project timeline is expected to include a Planning Commission hearing and a Use Permit hearing before the County Board in spring 2013.
Man Saves Life of Granddaughter — A grandfather saved the life of his granddaughter on Sunday, after the little girl started choking on fruit inside her family’s Arlington home. The grandfather, Rick Corbett, used his CPR training from the Boy Scouts in order to help save her life. [WUSA 9]
County Still Trying to Buy Courthouse Building — Arlington County is in negotiations to purchase the 1960s-era office building at 2020 14th Street N. The potential purchase sparked controversy among neighbors, largely due to the plan to place a year-round homeless shelter on the building’s lower floors. [Sun Gazette]
Tech Event Tonight at Artisphere — The technology networking organization Tech Cocktail is holding a mixer and startup showcase tonight at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd). Last-minute tickets for the event, which runs from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., are $20. [Tech Cocktail]
Homeless children from a shelter in Arlington will be donating more than $500 to the Special Olympics this afternoon.
The children live in Sullivan House, a shelter for homeless families in Clarendon run by the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. Together with parents, volunteers, and AACH staff, thirteen children between the ages of five and 13 ran a lemonade stand outside the shelter throughout the summer. They raised just over $1,000, according to AACH Lauren Marigot Barth.
“They learned about customer service, managing money, and marketing,” Barth said. “They also did a really good job!”
The children voted to donate half of the money raised to the Special Olympics. A representative from the organization – which organizes athletic competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities — will be on hand at Sullivan House this afternoon to officially receive the donation.
The rest of the money will help to fund a trip to Busch Gardens.
Photos courtesy Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless
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
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