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Salvation Army Opens Shelter to Serve Human Trafficking Survivors

The Salvation Army is opening a new, 24-hour shelter for survivors of human trafficking, a resource the charity is billing as the first of its kind in the D.C. area.

Leaders with the group’s National Capital Area Command say they can’t reveal where, exactly, the new shelter is located in the region in order to protect the people they’re trying to serve. But they held a ribbon-cutting for the new facility all the same today (Wednesday) at the organization’s Arlington headquarters in Alcova Heights.

“This strikes at the heart of the core values of the Salvation Army,” said Maj. James Hall, the charity’s commander for the D.C. region. “We believe this is the best way we can make a difference on a transformative issue addressing injustice.”

Hall added that the entire effort is being paid for by private donations. He’d originally hoped to win grant funding for the shelter, but struck out on that front.

State Sen. Dick Black (R), who represents Prince William and Loudoun in the General Assembly, commended the effort as an essential one to deal with a “rapidly increasing problem” around the region.

He placed most of the blame for that trend on gang members crossing the Mexican border, which he believes has “literally become a torrent pouring into the country” even as data show net migration levels falling in recent years.

“Runaway children are so easily preyed upon by these people,” Black said.

Kyla Conlee, the shelter’s director, says the new facility will have about half a dozen staff members in all, with two “on call” at all times if someone who’s recently escaped a sex or labor trafficking situation needs help.

She says the shelter will have eight bedrooms, and will be open to both men and women looking for a place to stay. Conlee notes that the facility will only be able to house people for up to 10 days at a time, but her staff plans to work with a network of other charitable organizations to find a more permanent living situation during their stays.

“The most immediate need someone has coming out of a trafficking situation is: where am I going to sleep that first night?” said Stuart Allen, a federal prosecutor in D.C. “I can’t take them in. Law enforcement can’t take them in… But now, victims will have a place to go that first night they need those services.”

Conlee added that her staff will work with local emergency rooms to provide basic medical care for their clients, and even more advanced care for victims of sexual assault. She also wants to offer them the basics at the facility, like new clothes and food, and plans to rely on the community for donations.

Anyone interested in making a donation can drop off goods at the Salvation Army’s Arlington center at 518 S. Glebe Road.

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Workers with Disabilities at Army National Guard Center Go On Strike, Demand Ability to Unionize

A group of workers with disabilities at the Army National Guard Readiness Center on S. George Mason Drive has gone on strike, pushing for the right to unionize and a reduction in healthcare costs.

A dozen employees with Didlake, a Manassas nonprofit that contracts with the National Guard to provide maintenance and custodial services at the center, walked off the job on this past Friday. They’ve been hoping for more than a year now to organize with the help of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, commonly known as LiUNA, but Didlake has repeatedly refused to recognize their efforts and negotiate with the workers.

The employees and union organizers claim that their Didlake supervisors have treated them poorly and done nothing to tamp down skyrocketing healthcare costs, a particularly troublesome development for workers who need to visit the doctor frequently to manage chronic health conditions. Didlake’s attorneys argue that the nonprofit only employs these workers through a federal program designed to help disabled people find work and therefore they don’t have the same ability to unionize as other employees.

The dispute has found its way to the National Labor Relations Board, but Didlake employees at the site said they decided to go on strike to force more attention to the issue.

“They don’t treat us equally,” Samantha Ulloa, a Didlake employee for the last five years who lives with epilepsy, told ARLnow. “They say they treat us better than regular people with no disabilities. But if we sit down for a few minutes, they say ‘No,’ and have us get up right away and work nonstop… We have nobody to support us right now.”

A spokeswoman for Didlake didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But, in NLRB filings, the nonprofit’s attorneys argue that Didlake has a “primarily rehabilitative relationship” with these employees as part of the federal “AbilityOne” program, and injecting a union into the arrangement could hurt the company’s ability to offer services to its workers.

“The fabric of Didlake’s rehabilitative program and the supports and services received by the participants are jeopardized and could be damaged” if the employees proceed with collective bargaining, Didlake attorneys wrote in a June 2017 NLRB filing.

Yet Ulloa argues that Didlake’s response to the workers’ complaints shows that the nonprofit isn’t truly listening to their concerns. While she appreciates the job coaching services the company offers, she noted that she and her husband currently pay about $800 a month just to afford health insurance — a cost that’s barely manageable on her minimum wage salary.

“The union could help us by getting us better benefits, supporting us and standing up for us,” Ulloa said.

Jonathan Viera, a LiUNA organizer, says the union first heard about this dispute from one of the employees involved and has been working for months now to help the workers organize. NLRB officials have twice sided with LiUNA and ordered union elections to go forward, but Didlake has continued to appeal those rulings.

“This is a company that receives funds from the government to help out these workers… and now that they’re here, they’re not taking care of them,” Viera said. “It’s obvious that they want a union here to better their lifestyles.”

Ashley Hansen, a LiUNA spokeswoman, says there’s “no time frame” for when the NLRB’s review of Didlake’s appeal will wrap up — “It could happen tomorrow, or it could take another year,” she said.

That leaves the Didlake workers in limbo, for now, which is why employees are hoping that this strike can force some sort of change.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be out here,” Ulloa said.

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Police Cite 20 for Failing to Yield to Pedestrians on Columbia Pike

The Arlington County Police Department cited 20 drivers yesterday (Thursday) on Columbia Pike for failing to yield to pedestrians, as part of an active enforcement effort.

Officers stationed themselves at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street in Alcova Heights and an officer in a bright orange shirt crossed the street as cars in the distance started to approach. ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said they cited 20 people for failing to yield.

The enforcement effort is part of its 2017 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign. A similar enforcement by police officers took place in mid-November.

The program aims to change road users’ behavior while reducing the number of crashes and injuries. Officers ticketed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violated traffic laws.

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Police Cite 11 Drivers for Not Yielding to Pedestrians

Arlington County Police cited 11 drivers in two places earlier this week for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the tickets were issued from two locations: the intersections of Washington Blvd and 4th Street N. in Lyon Park; and Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street in Alcova Heights.

Police said the program is part of its 2017 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign from November 6 through December 3.

The program aims to change road users’ behavior while reducing the number of crashes and injuries. Officers ticketed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violated traffic laws.

Officers will conduct another high-visibility enforcement effort on November 30.

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Trail Permanently Closed Near Alcova Heights Park As Federal Facility Expands

Construction to expand a federal training facility has closed a walking trail near Alcova Heights Park.

The trail between 6th Street S. and S. Quincy Street closed permanently yesterday for construction on the State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center (4000 Arlington Blvd).

NFATC trains members of the nation’s foreign service, and is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings. The project is expected to be completed in October 2018.

As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.

The decision to close the path came under fire earlier this year from local residents, who signed a petition to try to save it. At the time, critics said pedestrians would be deprived of a way to walk from one end of the Alcova Heights neighborhood to another.

The petition was signed by more than 130 people and urged the General Services Administration, which is responsible for the project, to “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” among other demands.

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Police, Fire Training Exercise Will Close Part of George Mason Drive

A planned joint training exercise by the Arlington County police and fire departments will close a busy street in the Alcova Heights neighborhood tomorrow.

From approximately 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the northbound lanes of S. George Mason Drive will be closed between Columbia Pike and Arlington Blvd (Route 50) to accommodate the exercise.

“Realistic training is critical to enhancing the police department’s capabilities to serve and protect the community to the best of our ability,” organizers wrote. “Those traveling in the area can expect to see an increase in public safety presence but are reminded that this is a training exercise only.”

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Fire Department Extinguishes House Fire on S. Randolph Street

The Arlington County Fire Department battled a house fire on S. Randolph Street earlier this afternoon (Wednesday).

Firefighters responded to the home on the 900 block of S. Randolph Street in Alcova Heights, just off Columbia Pike. According to scanner traffic, the fire was quickly put out just after 4:35 p.m., with all occupants evacuated safely.

No firefighters were injured.

Anyone near the scene can expect continuing traffic delays into evening rush hour.

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Arlington Palooza to Debut at Alcova Heights Park

The first ever Arlington Palooza is set for next weekend at Alcova Heights Park, and will include live music, art, games and more.

The free outdoor program for all ages lasts from 1-4 p.m. April 29 at the park, located at 901 S. George Mason Drive.

Live music will come from The Stewart Sisters, DJs from the Teen DJ Program and electronic pop duo Atoms Apart, while the Sultanas Troupe will perform belly dancing.

Away from the main stage, other entertainment will be provided by magicians, mini-guitar lessons by Music4Life and musical chairs. Art activities will include making flower crowns, decorating bandanas and helping install art at the park.

Also on offer will be moon bounces, face painting, a rock climbing wall, bubble forest, a smoothie bike and Very Hungry Caterpillar preschool activities. Food trucks from The Big Cheese and Rocklands Barbeque will be on site too.

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Alcova Heights Residents Petition to Save Pedestrian Path

More than 130 people who live in and around Alcova Heights have signed a petition to save a walking trail from the proposed expansion of a nearby federal training facility.

The State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which trains members of the nation’s foreign service, is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings.

As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.

According to an assessment from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the agency in charge of managing federal buildings and facilities, the effects on walkability in the neighborhood would not be significant.

“While input from the public scoping process showed a concern to keep the pedestrian trail open to the public, the [expansion’s] impact on neighborhood connectivity would be minor,” the GSA wrote. “This determination is based on the limited number of individuals using the NFATC pedestrian trail, as well as the extensive walking network of sidewalks adjacent to campus that offer an alternative to the pedestrian trail.”

But neighbors and other locals who use the path disagree with the government’s view.

Alcova Heights resident Danielle Arigoni, who yesterday launched a petition urging the government to reconsider eliminating the path, said the assessment is “outrageous.”

“The fact that the existing path is being eliminated is insulting,” Arigoni told ARLnow.com.

Eliminating the path would deprive pedestrians of a safe and easy way to walk from one part of the neighborhood to the other, Arigoni said.

“The NFATC site is so enormous… that it bifurcates Alcova Heights,” she said. Other than the pedestrian path “there are no east-west pathways that are viable alternatives.”

Others, like local resident Beth Smith, called the path a “great asset” for the surrounding neighborhood.

“I walk that way every day to pick my boys up and we walk back from school,” she said. “If they take this away and they don’t offer us an alternative, we’re either going to walk along Route 50, which is really frightening, or have to go down to 8th Street, which is really not convenient.”

One possible solution, said neighbor Rodrigo Abela, is limit the perimeter expansion to 10-15 feet instead of the planned 20 feet.

“Connectivity does not require more than 10-15 feet to allow people that move along the fence line, and looking at the site plan, it is easily achievable without compromising the safety of the compound,” he said.

Arigoni’s petition urges the GSA to, among other requests, “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” a suggestion that would require a permanent public access easement. In theory, Arigoni writes, Arlington County could then build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S.

Regardless of the solution, she said she simply wants to the GSA to take stock of the community’s needs.

“I think the point is that we want to be good neighbors with GSA and with the feds,” she said. “I understand the need for these kind of facilities, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of safe bike and pedestrian access in our neighborhood.”

Alcova Heights residents interested in submitting public comments can do so on the GSA website through Jan. 15.

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House Fire Near TJ Middle School

Firefighters battled a house fire two blocks from Thomas Jefferson Middle School this morning.

The fire broke out around 6:30 a.m. near the intersection of 1st Road S. and S. Glebe Road.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames within 15-20 minutes. One person was treated by paramedics as a result of the blaze.

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Morning Notes

Glencarlyn forest (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Report: Toddler Left in Car Suffered Burns — The Annandale man charged in the death of his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter was watching TV and drinking beer as the child sat forgotten in his car, NBC 4 reports. He was also driving on a revoked license. The girl had a body temperature of 107 when she was rushed to the hospital and had second-degree burns from the car seat. [NBC Washington]

Park Aides Get Banning Powers — Park ranger aides in Arlington now have the legal authority to ban people from parks. The County Board voted earlier this month to add aides to the list of county personnel with powers of attorney for the “Park Safe” program. Offenders who violate the ban — which is typically levied on those who repeatedly violate park rules — can be charged with criminal trespassing. [InsideNova]

Moon Bounce Opportunity — Arlington County will be holding a “Fitness Day in the Park” at Alcova Heights Park on Saturday. The event will include games, nutrition and fitness demos, an inflatable rock wall and a moon bounce. [Arlington County]

Festival Argentino in Arlington — The 2016 Argentine Festival will be held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (125 S. Old Glebe Road) on Saturday, May 14. The event will feature traditional food, exhibitions, music and dance. Tickets are $20 in advance. [Festival Argentino USA]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Police Seek Uber Driver for Alleged Sex Assault

Police car lights(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Arlington County Police are looking for an Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger.

The incident happened early Sunday morning, on the 900 block of S. Randolph Street in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. It started with an Uber ride that left D.C. at some point between 2:45 and 4:00 a.m.

Police say an intoxicated woman, 29, and her friend ordered an Uber, but ended up getting in “an Uber cab that was not her intended ride.”

While in transit, the woman vomited in the back seat, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The driver dropped off the friend before driving to S. Randolph Street to drop off the victim. It’s at that point that the alleged assault occurred.

“Despite the ride not being established via the app, the driver consented to provide a ride,” said the crime report. “The driver allegedly sexually assaulted the female victim when she was unable to pay the fare.”

The victim then fled to a friend’s house and called police. Police are now trying to track down the driver.

“The suspect is described as a Middle Eastern male with short, curly black hair, and a goatee,” according to the police report. “He was wearing a dark polo shirt and jeans at the time of the incident.”

As of this afternoon police said they had not yet reached out to Uber but planned to do so soon. An Uber spokesman said the company has contacted police and offered to assist with the investigation.

“We have contacted the authorities to offer our support in their investigation, and we continue to gather more information,” said Uber’s Taylor Bennett. “Our thoughts are with the victim during this difficult time.”

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Police Seek Victims of Home Inspector Accused of Sexual Battery

Olaseni Cole(Updated at 7:45 a.m.) The Arlington County Police Department Special Victims Unit is seeking additional victims of a county home inspector who has been accused of inappropriately touching a woman during an inspection of her home.

Olaseni Cole, 54, was charged with sexual battery after allegedly groping a woman on the morning of Tuesday, April 14, according to Arlington County police.

The incident happened on the 3900 block of 8th Street S., in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. Cole, an Upper Marlboro, Md. resident and an Arlington County employee, was inspecting the woman’s house.

Cole was arrested and is being held at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. Police are asking anyone else who might have been a victim to come forward.

“Anyone who has had past inappropriate encounters with this suspect is asked to call Detective N. Brooks at 703.228.4169 or email [email protected],” the press release continued. “To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).”

Olesani started working for the county in March 2014, according to Arlington Human Resources Director Marcy Foster.

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Neighborhood Day Returns Next Weekend

Neighborhood Day: Fairlington DayEvents all over the county next weekend will be held to celebrate the warm weather and Arlington’s annual Neighborhood Day.

The events start Saturday, May 17 at 9:00 a.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) for Truck Day, where trucks of all kinds will occupy the library’s parking lot so children can learn about each of their specific functions.

The annual Turtle Trot 5K in Bluemont Park will start an hour later at 10:00 a.m. With proceeds going to the Long Branch Nature Center’s turtle preservation efforts, the race is $30 for adults who register in advance.

At the same time, Family Fun Day at Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) will kick off and last until 2:00 p.m. Activities will include “1st Tee Golf, YoKids Yoga, a giant obstacle course, ‘Movin and Groovin Cardio Dance,’ fitness demos and more,” according to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Another Neighborhood Day also means another Fairlington Day on the grounds of the Fairlington Community Center. Starting at 11:00 a.m., the festivities include hot dogs, drinks, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a moon bounce with slides and basketball hoops, an inflatable obstacle course and agricultural demonstrations from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Nauck, High View Park, Waverly Hills and Cherrydale will also be hosting small events over the weekend, with a Nauck neighborhood cleanup and a WalkArlington walkabout through the latter three areas. The weekend concludes in Ballston Sunday afternoon with the annual Taste of Arlington street festival.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Snowy Potomac shoreline (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Snow Leads to Numerous Accidents — Numerous accidents were reported around Arlington this morning due to snow-slickened streets. Accidents were reported on Route 50 near Carlin Springs Road, Lee Highway and Key Blvd at N. Rhodes Street, and on N. George Mason Drive across from Lubber Run Park. As of 9:00 a.m. the accident on Route 50 was still reportedly causing traffic backups.

No Tickets for Snow Removal Violations — Arlington County has not handed out any tickets or fines for violations of the county’s snow removal ordinance so far this winter. The ordinance requires home and business owners to shovel their sidewalks within 24-36 hours of the end of a snow storm. County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the County Board yesterday that it had received 118 snow removal-related complaints, but each time a property owner was notified of a violation they “took care of it.” [Sun Gazette]

Lopez Receives Local Endorsements — Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has picked up the endorsement of some local Arlington County figures in his run for Congress. Lopez announced this morning that he has been endorsed by Arlington County School Board Member Emma Violand-Sanchez, Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur and former Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Mike Lieberman.

Alcova Heights Neighborhood Plan Approved — The County Board last night approved an update to the Alcova Heights Neighborhood Conservation Plan. The plan calls for improving the neighborhood’s appearance while preserving its character and protecting it from speeding and cut-through traffic. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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