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With Shelter Closed, Arlington’s Homeless Look for New Places to Sleep

by ARLnow.com April 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm 4,455 56 Comments

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

  • CrystalMikey

    Can that Artisphere funding come A-SPAN’s way?

  • KalashniKEV

    This might as well be comment closed if you’re not going to approve my post. It’s not offensive in any way, and very relevant.

    • KalashniKEV

      My apologies, it was the external link.

  • KalashniKEV

    Here’s a fun diversion: Go to the VA Sex Offender Registry

    And enter:

    How many violent sex offenders is A-SPAN harboring at any given time? This is TWO blocks from Key Elementary School.

    • ArlLiver4

      I only see one:

      Home : 2049 NORTH 15TH STREET, ARLINGTON, VA 22201
      Work : NOT EMPLOYED
      Reg. Renewed : Nov 17, 2010
      Victim Age : Minor

      • Arrrrrlington

        There are 2 if you click A-SPAN. However there are a dozen more in the surrounding area, so it’s not as if A-SPAN is harboring a gang of sexual predators hell bent on touching children.

        But props to you for thinking of the children. Someone has to.

      • KalashniKEV

        Only of the two is listed as a “violent” sex offender. The numbers fluctuate, which shows that the system at least gets new data regularly. Check back again next fall, when all your favorite Rapist Hobos- along with some new faces- will be back from summer vacation and ready for more zany antics on the Real World: Arlington Bum Mansion!

        • mehoo

          There are more rapists living in homes near you than in the homeless shelter. But you don’t care, because you just need an excuse to hate.

    • mehoo

      At least we know where they are. If they’re on the street, we can’t find them.

  • Arrrrrlington

    “It’s a real treat staying here at the A-SPAN shelter,” he said. “I don’t want to leave.”

    If South Park has taught me anything it’s that if you treat the homeless well you’ll just attract more of them. Change. Does anyone have any change? I need some change.


    • KalashniKEV

      Shouldn’t it be absolute hell-on-earth to be a Bum? A “real treat?”

      Something is wrong here.

      • Bard

        We’re not talking about the Red Door Spa here — a “real treat” for a homeless guy might be a hot shower or a place to take a dump during the day. Would you prefer that they s*** in public?

        • Phil

          course…that’s how they get on the sex offender’s register

  • Reality

    I think the county should in fact provide a year round services for those in need. However, I have sympathy for those concerned that a year round shelter would become a magnet for homeless across tge region. Does the shelter have residency requirements. I would think that the shelter should only admit Arlington residents. How to determine Arlington residency might be a challenge, however not insurmountable.

    • Lou

      They have no residence.

    • A-SPAN tells me that individuals have to prove Arlington residency — not sure about the requirements there — in order to stay in the shelter more than four days.

      • KalashniKEV

        That makes absolutely no sense… if they have a “residence” why wouldn’t you then tell them, “OK, go reside there!”

        This is begging for James O’Keefe to blow it wide open. Criminal Aliens, Rapists, and the Welfare State run amok… there has to be drugs involved somewhere too!!!


        • GMo

          Don’t forget the voter fraud!

        • mehoo

          Yeah, that James O’Keefe is really building his credibility.

      • Arlwhenever

        There are residency shills who sign a bogus lease or sublease to prove residency — then claim the tenant was evicted or the tenancy was terminated for failure to pay rent.

  • House them in the Artisphere. Feed them at here.

  • Aaron

    Even if the Artisphere is a lost cause, perhaps some of the trolley money could be spent building a year-round shelter and providing for our most vulnerable populations’ basic needs.

  • Reader

    I’m really tired of comments. Dr. Dremos this. Artisphere that. Show my your birth certificate. These are not comments. These are people who have no life, like Arlington Yupette. Too much time to be entirely to negative, destructive, and use words in jest to mock, hurt, slander, humor, and entertain. Never would you people say (almost) any of these things in a public forum with such fervor. Times are tough for some, maybe not you, but for homeless people, those that put their lives into building the Artisphere, building ganges, etc. We are a stronger community when we build each other up not sh*t on each other continually. Have a freaking heart people and check yourself. Happy Friday, no go enjoy your cherry blossoms.

    • Who peed in your Cheerios?

      • ILikePeeingInCheerios

        I confess!

        • Chad

          I laughed.

          • Tabby

            Me too. Hey, Chad, how’s it hanging?

    • DC123


    • Skeptical

      Thanks for being an adult. Continual bashing on sites like this sometimes makes me wonder why the site owners allow comments at all. Note that Arl Now has been forced to close comments on any post about a suicide and the comments on some other tragic events are just about as heartless.

      There is no perfect solution to homelessness, conflicts over redevelopment, immigration problems or what have you, but comments like this make me realize why it’s so hard for people to arrive at even imperfect solutions.

      • mehoo

        Yes, it’s truly sad that ArlNow must close comments on a suicide item.

    • CrystalMikey

      Thank you Reader! =)

    • robft

      Your post strikes me as entirely too negative; maybe you shouldn’t be posting either.

    • MB

      Thank you.

  • Reality

    Residency has nothing to do with a home, condo, etc. Residency is where you permanantly belong. I would argue that tgose who leave Arlington when the Shelter closes are not true residents…if they leave the county that is. If they remenain in the county, I would classify the as residents. Those who simply show up from points afar..I wouldn’t classify them as residents. I would put the burden on A-SPAN for developing a good system for weeding out the transients prior to providing tgem any resourcing at all. However, if A-SPAN can if fact develope a system to identify those true residents of Arlington to provide services to, the why not support year round services….only for true Arlington residents though.

  • Kathy on Columbia Pike

    This residence proof argument is stupid since they have no way of proving they live here now having no home, utility bills etc. Perhaps it can be limited to those who are former Arlington residents so at least they might be able to show some records that they did live here at some point.

  • JimPB

    Bless A-Span for providing shelter that I do not yet have the closeness to Christ to offer myself.

  • BoredHouseWife

    How I wish we lived in the Star Trek The next Generation universe.

  • Frink

    If you stay in a publicly-funded shelter you should have to sign a legally-binding contract prohibiting you from aggressive panhandling at Courthouse Metro. Some of those guys are just mean.

    • Thes

      That’s an interesting thought. Some communities actually do zone and regulate panhandling. This issue has been the focus of some serious academic study. In some ways, the location of a homeless facility is similar to locating any other “use” that can have negative consequences for neighbors. We have zoned parking that (however imperfectly) addresses “parking spillover” from high density offices. Perhaps whatever location we pick for a permanent homeless shelter should be surrounded by a special “no pandhandling” zone to address this particular kind of spillover.

  • Roquer

    Since the County Board has decided to provide more money to house ALL the homeless in the area, how bout we let the homeless stay in Board member’s homes?

  • ArlingtonNative

    Year-round shelter … Yeah, just what Arlington needs. Make it a ‘treat’ for all the regions homeless to come and stay in Arlington. For all the liberal nay-sayers that think it’s the communities obligation … I’d say go stay in Vancouver for a week or two. They made shelter and resources for the homeless a priority and it has destroyed a significant portion of that city. The homeless from all over Canada flocked there and the center of Vancouver is now a filthy, drug & sex-crime riddled cess-pool. Maybe all the Arlingtonians that want to help the homeless ‘year-round’ can load up a Greyhound with your homeless buddies and head off to Vancouver. My guess is you’ll be high-tailing back to your suburban wonderland in no time at all.

  • BillFrye

    Arlington already has a homeless shelter. It is called the jail. Arrest them for loitering or vagrancy and put them in jail!!! It is also the best place to put the registered offenders who would be pampered by a county shelter.

    • Maria

      You know county jails are paid for in tax dollars, right? Interesting logic.

    • mehoo

      What about the homeless children? Jail? With our without their mothers? Or do you send them to an orphanage?

      Why not just rename yourself Charles Dickens?

  • g_clifford_prout

    Maybe a homeless shelter where Saah Furniture used to be. That would be a step up from a 7-11.

  • Deb

    OK…for all you who think being homeless is “Fun” or “an alternative lifestyle”..get a f-ing life! for GOD’s sake…people are suffering. Regardless of your polictical stripes…humanity is an issue here. Not Arlington bashing or NOVA bashing. Geez…there are homeless in my hometown in NY…no one argues when is 20 below 0….why are such douchbags willing to condemn others to the manure heap? you are a pay chech away? TOO close for comfort prephaps? GET A LIFE!

    • mehoo

      “Regardless of your polictical stripes…humanity is an issue here.”

      Yes. Funny how the politics lines up with humanity anyway. And we all know which way.

  • Overgrown Bush

    I think you should exchange shelter time for a provided service. Let them stay the night, or a week, in exchange for emptying some garbage cans or picking up litter. Something….put them to work and give them a sense of worth in exchange for the bed, crapper, and shower.

    • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

      I agree. If you stay at the shelter you should be required to do something to support yourself… and by that I mean you should be doing a community service (raking, mowing, shoveling, fixing something, whatever) or working to find a job and eventually a proper residence. I do also agree what others have alluded to that there are many reason that people become homeless. You have a sudden acute illness and limited health insurance and you can become ridiculously in debt before you know it. Or you can be mentally ill and unable to pay for your ridiculously expensive medications, so you stop taking them. The next thing you know you don’t know which end is up and are on the street. It IS a community issue, and a humanity issue. There is no easy solution… but it is obvious that the solutions we are finding for Arlington at this time are not adequate. And certainly delinquency, crime, panhandling, and the like should not be tolerated at the same time we try to help those that want to help themselves.

  • 4Arl

    Looking for effective and sustainable solutions does not make one unaware of the suffering. If someone can present a heart-ful solution that won’t ultimately result in a net increase in the Arlington homeless population, I think most people would be receptive, and probably the board would be too.

    • Maria

      Yes, but – while I know some of them are jokes – most of the proposed “solutions” on here are neither effective nor sustainable. They also indicate a total lack of altruism or compassion. Something like what “Overgrown Bush” (unpleasant name, by the way) said above you is something that might actually be effective/sustainable.

  • Danno

    I went to the PO in Court House yesterday to mail a letter, and there was a homeless person sitting in the windowsill. No one seemed to care.

  • KalashniKOOK

    On no, my head just exploded!

    “Virginia to provide housing for homeless veterans”



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