Arlington, VA

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Michael Garcia, a Columbia Pike insurance agent who serves as the board chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, a local nonprofit that works with homeless individuals in Arlington. A-SPAN is weighing in on the proposed Virginia Hospital Center expansion, which the Arlington Planning Commission and some residents who live near the hospital oppose in its current form.

I am writing in support of the Virginia Hospital Center expansion project. It is my hope that the County Board recognizes the enormous value that VHC brings to this community and approves the project, as soon as possible.

As Board Chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and a long-time Arlington resident, I see first-hand the consequences of delayed healthcare visits. The homeless clients at the Homeless Services Center frequently suffer from infections, life threatening reactions to untreated chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. That is why we have the Medical Respite and Nursing Services Program at the Homeless Services Center. For most Arlington County citizens, when a doctor says to go home and recuperate, that’s what they do, but what do you do when you have no home? VHC and A-SPAN through our partnership work together to ensure that these homeless individuals and veterans have a safe, compassionate, high-quality environment in which to recuperate.

VHC staff make every effort to assess and treat patients in a holistic way. When homeless patients are discharged from the Hospital to the Medical Respite Program, A-SPAN is part of the follow-up care plan and clients are referred to VHC outpatient services, as appropriate.

I cannot stress enough the value of a new Behavioral Health Center like the one proposed by VHC. Over 70% of homeless veterans and individuals suffer from some form of mental illness and this condition must be treated. We are fortunate that VHC, an Arlington provider that was recently named one of America’s 100 top Hospitals for the third year in a row, is willing to respond to the community’s need for more outpatient mental health services. Moreover, the VHC has indicated that all patients would be welcome at the new Center, regardless of their ability to pay.

The distinction of VHC being named as one of the 100 Top Hospitals in the nation is an honor benefitting all Arlingtonians by providing excellent care to the community. I am confident that this commitment to excellence will extend to the newly proposed Behavioral Health Center services, as well. VHC is a community partner worthy of support and we hope our elected leaders demonstrate this support.

Sincerely,

Michael Garcia
Board Chair, A-SPAN

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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An ’80s themed bootcamp will take place in Rosslyn tomorrow to honor Ralf Hofmann, a man remembered as a passionate advocate for Arlington’s homeless and recent immigrants.

Hofmann, a former General Manager at the Hyatt Centric Arlington who was very active in several local charities, passed away on July 30 after a battle with a rare and aggressive cancer. All proceeds of the bootcamp will go towards a GoFundMe set up to support his wife, Heather, and their two sons.

The bootcamp will be held in Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway). Sign in for the event starts at 6:30 p.m., with the workout starting at 7:30. A raffle afterwards will give attendees a chance to win a weekend stay at the Hyatt Centric, free dinner at Cityhouse, or a month of free coffee from Key Bridge Terrace. Attendees are encouraged to wear ’80s themed workout attire and plenty of neon.

Hofmann worked in culinary arts for over 30 years, working in the Hyatt Centric as executive chef before becoming general manager. In his work at the hotel, he regularly partnered with groups like the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and served on the board of La Cocina, a program that offers local latino immigrants a bilingual course in job training and language skills.

“We approached [the Hyatt Centric] to become a partner, meaning they hire our students for internships,” said Paty Funegra, CEO of La Cocina. “Ralf right away pushed to sign that agreement. They hosted our students there in the kitchen, and when he got promoted to operations manager, he approached me to offer more help. ‘I’m here,’ he told me, ‘can I help you in any other capacities?'”

Funegra said Hofmann was one of La Cocina’s biggest advocates, and was active in helping the group fundraise.

“He was my mentor,” said Funegra. “He was very generous, very open. He had a big heart, and cooking was his passion.”

Funegra said that Hofmann himself was an immigrant and that he was very conscious of trying to offer opportunities to others. Hofmann had a large collection of cooking books, which he donated to La Cocina to form the start of their library at their new facility at 3507 Columbia Pike. Funegra said they will be naming it the Hofmann Family Library in his honor.

Kathy Sibert, CEO of A-SPAN, said Hofmann was a driving force behind having the Hyatt host events for local charities and holding donation drives. For those in A-SPAN ready to work, Hofmann made sure there were internships available.

“Ralf was very involved,” said Sibert. “He worked on all of these things. He came to the events and really set the tone with his staff: to be very involved in the community.”

“We thought the Hyatt might be a good relationship, but Ralf really brought it to a personal level,” said Scott Miller, senior director of development at ASPAN. “He was absolutely the first to offer up an internship program, giving people a second or third chance. That was one of our first corporate partners for an internship. There are a lot of hurdles to jump, you had to get that person willing to raise their hand and say, ‘I’ll be your champion.’ Without Ralf’s help, we wouldn’t have had those jobs and internships, and those people wouldn’t have had their second chance. He opened up their facilities. It was his willingness to take that chance and be that champion with them.”

As a manager, Miller said Hofmann was very inclusive and made sure everyone had a voice and felt included.

“It was never a manager talking down to people, it was seeing people eye to eye,” said Miller. “He wanted to make sure people felt comfortable and friendly.”

Miller said whenever someone new would start working at the Hyatt Centric, Hofmann would make sure they had a “coffee break buddy”, someone who could help show them around and make sure they didn’t feel isolated.

According to his friends, Hofmann was also a very smart dresser.

“He would always wear beautiful suits; tailored with a handkerchief,” said Miller. “One time, we borrowed a riser for our open house… When we finally got it back to him, it must have been 100 degrees outside. The hospitality people were out there doing other stuff, and he’s out there in his expensive suit moving it by himself.”

Miller said Hofmann tore part of his suit moving the heavy riser, but that he was dismissive of it.

“That was Ralf; willing to help,” said Miller. “He wouldn’t pull someone off desk duty if it was something he could do himself.”

Photo via Rosslyn BID

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Morning Notes

Instant Runoff Bill Fails in Richmond — It appeared to be headed toward potential passage, but a bill to allow Arlington County to hold instant-runoff elections for County Board was referred to another committee on a 51-49 House of Delegates vote and is effectively dead for 2018. [InsideNova]

Arlington Denies Request for 911 Recording — “Arlington County has denied a request from the family of Bijan Ghaisar to release the 911 call made after a hit-and-run crash he was involved in, before a police chase ended with U.S. Park Police fatally shooting him.” [Covering the Corridor, WTOP]

ARLnow on Kojo — ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck will discussing the state of local news on the Kojo Nnamdi Show today. The show airs at noon on WAMU 88.5 FM. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

A-SPAN Celebrates Quarter Century — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which started as a grassroots effort to address local homelessness, recently marked its 25th anniversary with a fundraiser and celebration in Rosslyn. [InsideNova]

Email List Hits 10K — ARLnow’s email newsletter mailing list crossed the 10,000 mark on Monday. Thank you to all of our subscribers, who are receiving our headlines free of social media filters. (ARLnow’s Twitter account reached 40,000 followers in December and our newly-verified Facebook account is on the verge of 24,000.)

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Arlington Adding Winter Shelter Beds — In response to the frigid temperatures, Arlington County says it is expanding the number of hypothermia slots at the Courthouse area winter shelter for singles operated by A-SPAN, “adding 10 more to the current 25.” [Twitter]

Bicycle Beltway Proposal — “A new bicycle beltway is set to be endorsed by the region’s Transportation Planning Board in January. The full Outer Loop would be 45 miles long. The beltway would also have additional connections in the middle, through the heart of downtown D.C. along the National Mall.” [WTOP]

Father of Rep. Don Beyer Dies — “Donald S. Beyer, Sr., the patriarch of the storied Beyer family dynasty in Falls Church, died last Saturday two weeks before his 94th birthday.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Local NYE Bar Options — Looking for a place to ring in the new year in Arlington? Last month we published a sponsored list of five options along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor that are still applicable. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Since 2013, Arlington’s chronic homelessness rate has dropped 64 percent, and it was the second community in the nation able to claim to have ended veteran homelessness.

This is no accident, officials say: it’s because of the county’s “housing first” model.

“A long time ago… the thought was you need to get someone ready to move into housing — and that has been completely debunked,” said Kathy Sibert, the president/CEO of nonprofit A-SPAN, which works to end homelessness in the county. “What you want to do is get people into housing and stabilized.”

This approach is part of Arlington’s “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness,” which was launched in 2008. The plan aims to ensure that no person or family lacks an adequate and affordable home.

“We try to get to the root causes of homelessness so that we can build the person up to a stable place where they can not only just get housing but maintain it for a longer time,” said Kurt Larrick, assistant director at the county’s Department of Human Services.

Arlington did see a slight increase in homelessness for 2017. In 2016, there were 174 homeless people, and in 2017 that number jumped to 232. However, Sibert said homelessness “ebbs and flows,” which she said helps t0 explain the uptick.

Once somebody is housed, Sibert said, it is much easier to work on their challenges. If they have substance-abuse problems or mental illness, authorities know where they live and can easily set up appointments for them.

Getting a job is much easier once a person is housed, too. Rather than spending each day waking up on the street, schlepping across the county to get breakfast, wandering somewhere else to take a shower, then trekking elsewhere to find clean clothes, when a person is housed they can do all those things in an hour, making it much more feasible for them to become employed.

“To get everything done that you [typically do] in one hour to go to work takes all day [for them],” Sibert said.

The Homeless Services Center in Courthouse, which opened in 2015 in an aging office building, was designed to help homeless individuals do all those things in one location, making it the first place of its kind in the D.C. metropolitan area.

The center has 50 year-round shelter beds, five medical respite beds, 25 extra beds in the winter, employment and life skills training programs, art classes, a full-time nurse practitioner, mental illness and substance-abuse counselors, showers, laundry and mail facilities, free meals three times a day and more.

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In an unprecedented collaboration, 13 real estate firms and RGS Title have joined forces to provide winter essentials for those in need throughout the Arlington community.

The firms are working together as Arlington Realtors Care (ARC) to collect from the public donated food and clothing items. Items are being delivered to the Arlington Food Assistance Center and A-SPAN. The drive is meant to bring aid to those most in need.

ARC logoARC’s goal is to donate over 2,500 pounds of food to AFAC and several hundred clothing items and blankets to A-SPAN.

Saturday, Dec. 17 is the second community-wide drop off date for members of the public interested in donating outerwear, blankets and food items in support of the drive. For those interested in contributing, the drop-off point is at RGS Title located at 4600 Lee Highway, Suite 110, in Arlington. Collection hours are 10 a.m. through 2 p.m.

A-SPAN’s current needs are coats, winter-wear (gloves, scarfs, beanies, long-johns) and blankets. Items should be new, cleaned or recently laundered.

Food donations are being delivered to The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), a community-based nonprofit that provides supplemental groceries to Arlington residents. AFAC accepts most unopened, unexpired, and unprepared foods, including perishable items. The organization is most in need of low sodium tomato products (diced, paste, & sauce), low sodium canned tuna, low sodium canned soups, low sodium canned beans, low sugar cereal and cooking oil.

The food and clothing drive started on Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 31.

Participating firms are Advon Real Estate, Buck & Associates, Century 21 New Millennium, Century 21 Redwood Realty, Coldwell Banker, Compass, Keller Williams Metro Center, Long and Foster, Realtors | Christie’s International Real Estate, McEnearney & Associates, TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty, Washington Fine Properties, LLC and Weichert, Realtors. RGS Title is a host of the event.

For more information on the charities involved, visit the websites for AFAC and A-SPAN.

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The sun during the heat advisory on Thursday, July 14, 2016Arlington County and the surrounding D.C. area is under a heat advisory today.

High temperatures and high humidity will make for a sweaty and potentially dangerous afternoon.

Those who must spend time outdoors today are advised to drink plenty of water, seek breaks in the shade and avoid strenuous activity if possible.

In response to the heatwave, A-SPAN has opened overflow space and set up additional beds at Arlington’s Homeless Services Center in Courthouse.

A-SPAN also offers daytime drop-ins to help those on the streets beat the heat. The drop-in program is offered from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the shelter, located at 2020-A 14th Street N.

From the National Weather Service:

HEAT ADVISORY FROM 12PM EDT MON UNTIL 8PM EDT MON

* HEAT INDEX VALUES… UP TO 108 DUE TO TEMPERATURES BETWEEN 95 TO 100… AND DEWPOINTS IN THE LOWER 70S.

* IMPACTS… RISK OF HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS FOR THOSE WITHOUT AIR- CONDITIONING OR THOSE OUTDOORS FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD. 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 911.

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.

A HEAT ADVISORY MEANS THAT A PERIOD OF HIGH TEMPERATURES IS EXPECTED. THE COMBINATION OF HIGH TEMPERATURES AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL CREATE A SITUATION IN WHICH HEAT ILLNESSES ARE POSSIBLE.

In addition to the sweltering temperatures and humidity, storms are possible today. Via Twitter:

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Morning Notes

I-395 near the Pentagon at dawn

W-L Defeats Yorktown, Twice — The Washington-Lee girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball teams both defeated their Yorktown counterparts yesterday, in cross-county rivalry games. The girls won 54-45, while the boys won 65-59.

Branson-Backed Startup Coming to Rosslyn — OneWeb, a startup that’s aiming to launch a constellation of low-orbit satellites that will provide affordable Internet access across the globe, is coming to Rosslyn. The company, backed by Virgin Group tycoon Richard Branson, will occupy a 6,000-square-foot space in Monday Properties’ 1400 Key Blvd building. The building, which is also home to ARLnow.com, is slated to replaced with an apartment tower and grocery store at some point, though it’s unclear when the redevelopment will move forward. [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: Get Rid of Dry Christmas Trees — The Arlington County Fire Department is reminding residents that dry Christmas trees are a big fire hazard. The county is currently in the midst of its annual Christmas tree collection. [Twitter]

A-SPAN Kudos for Paisano’s — Paisano’s Pizza saved the day for the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, after A-SPAN’s planned hot dinner for its homeless clients fell through at the last minute. Paisano’s delivered pasta, salad and garlic bread on a cold night and on short notice. [Facebook]

Levine Proposes LGBT Rights Bills — Yesterday we reported on three LGBT rights bills proposed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D). Delegate-elect Mark Levine (D), who represents part of South Arlington and Alexandria, has proposed several such bills of his own. Among them are bills prohibiting employment, housing and other discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Levine was formerly legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). [Washington Blade]

TransportationCamp DC Coming to GMU — George Mason University’s Arlington campus will host the 5th annual TransportationCamp DC gathering on Saturday. The “un-conference” will discuss various transportation, technology and mobility issues. More than 400 “thought leaders, young professionals, and students from around the country” are expected to attend. [TransportationCamp]

Thank You to Crystal City Rotary Club — Thank you to the Crystal City-Pentagon Rotary Club for a hearty breakfast this morning. ARLnow.com founder Scott Brodbeck spoke to the group about his experience running a small business that happens to be Arlington’s most-read local news outlet. ARLnow.com will celebrate its sixth anniversary on Jan. 29.

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Former Army Cpl. Alvin HillFormer Army Cpl. Alvin Hill just renewed his lease on an apartment on 8th Road S. in Arlington, almost a year after he originally moved into his home.

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.

Kathy Sibert of A-SPAN“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.

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Homeless man on a bench outside Arlington Central LibraryTwo months before its new, year-round homeless shelter is set to open, Arlington County released encouraging results from the annual count of its homeless population.

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.”

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Morning Notes

Early spring in Westover Village

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]

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