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A Look Inside the County’s Emergency Winter Shelter

by ARLnow.com November 8, 2010 at 1:13 pm 5,063 16 Comments

Arlington’s emergency winter shelter in Courthouse is now open and serving dozens of homeless individuals. On Saturday, reporters got a tour of the facility.

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.

“I would like for [the shelter] to be all year round,” he said. “We have people in the community who ought not suffer when we have the resources we do.”

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.

The shelter increased its capacity last year, and now serves about four times as many women as it did before. It sleeps 73 individuals, with men and women on separate floors, and can feed and clean an additional 15 even after sleeping spaces run out. During dire situations, like last winter’s snow storms, A-SPAN works with the county to secure extra capacity. One option that was exercised this year was bringing shelter clients to the Arlington County jail, across the street.

A-SPAN, which enjoys an abundance of volunteers during most times of the day, is currently seeking evening volunteers to work from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It’s also looking for donations of toiletries, cereal, towels, socks and underwear.

  • TGEoA

    Tear it down now. Arlington can’t afford this. We are too busy building art centers and doggie waterfalls

    • Jason S

      It’s a fair criticism. For the dogs they will accept further debt for the county. For the homeless? No such generosity.

      • charlie

        We spend $1,000,000+ a year on the animal shelter
        1.7 million on a dog park next to the most valuable neighborhood.
        And our less fortunate people get shoved into an office building that no one would live in?
        And we say we are liberal democrats. HA.

        • Aaron

          All you need to do to be a good liberal democrat is think happy thoughts.

  • AJbaba

    Thanks for the thoughtful and balanced comment. So much for sanity. So do you have any productive comments to share?

  • PurpleFlipFlops

    What sort of “building code issues” prevent it from being open year round? If they are in violation of building codes it should be closed period.

  • W

    Will this be in a special district so we can have homeless representation on the board? Having at-large elections gives an advantage to voters with homes.

  • rft

    “One option that was exercised this year was bringing shelter clients to the Arlington County jail”

    Isn’t that what the drug laws are for?

  • Andrew

    I think the “building code” issues concern the zoning for that neighborhood. The shelter in the middle of a business district — CVS is around the corner, movie theater, Jerry’s subs, restaurants, office buildings etc. Clearly, the shelter is a residential facility.

    I think they could be open year round — if they move. But of course, the question them becomes: Who wants a homeless shelter in THEIR neighborhood? (Here we see how “liberal” Arlington really is). Maybe the council can pass a variance for the shelter so it can stay in place and be open year round?

    • Clarice

      How about in the middle of one of those Republican districts that many commentors say Arlington is full of.

    • Arlington, Northside

      That would be a zoning issue, not a code issue. Zoning issues the community could pencil whip through, code issues might take real money to fix.

  • que_de_que

    Thanks for this article! It’s inspired me to want to volunteer at A-SPAN.

  • KalashniKEV

    Incredible, at least now I know, thanks to ARLnow, the source of the problem: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/63202

    This is absolutely disgusting. Feeding these welfare rats has emboldened them.

    It’s time for a BUM ROUND-UP in the corridor!!!

  • George McC

    Don’t worry, the county will undoubtedly find space in South Arlington for a homeless shelter. Probably along Columbia Pike. Y’know, before it gets too gentrified down there.

  • Jan

    If you would like to volunteer at the shelter or learn more about programs, please visit http://www.a-span.org or email Sarah at [email protected]. Thank you!

  • Westover

    Thanks Jan


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