Officials report Arlington County has “achieved functional zero” one year after pledging to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
“This is a tremendous milestone for our community,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Committing to end veteran homelessness in 2015 and chronic homelessness in 2016 was a lot to bite off. But if any community could do it, we were confident it would be us. We had the will, the resources and the people to make it happen.”
According to a press release, Arlington was one of 74 communities across the United States that formally committed to ending veteran homelessness last year. During that time, the county moved 20 homeless veterans into permanent, stable housing from the streets and shelters, reaching the functional zero status.
By definition, functional zero homelessness is when a community, at any point in time, does not have more people experiencing homelessness than it can house in an average month.
Last April, officials reported the county’s homeless population was down 18 percent. The county also made moves to provide temporary housing solutions by opening a new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse in early October.
These combined efforts are part of the county’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. It outlines strategies to address the issue, including priorities like increasing affordable housing and providing services so households can maintain their housing.
David Leibson — who is co-chair of the 10 Year Plan’s Executive Committee with Melissa Bondi — described the functional zero for veteran homelessness achievement a “true community effort.”
“The level of cooperation and collaboration among County agencies, non-profits and others who have a stake in ending homelessness in Arlington has matured tremendously over the past half-dozen years or so,” Leibson said in a statement.
As Garvey mentioned, the county’s next goal is to end chronic homelessness by the end of this year as part of another national campaign called Zero: 2016. This campaign also strives to reach functional zero for individuals who have experienced homelessness for one year or more, have been homeless at least four times in the last year, or are homeless and have a disability.
In her statement, Bondi said she believes the County’s efforts to reach annual goals like these are working.
“In the last five years we’ve reduced the number of people in shelters or on the streets by more than half,” she said. “That’s the result of a lot of hard work from service providers, a legion of volunteers and great community support along with federal, state and county funding. We knew going in that getting to zero was going to be a challenge, but we weren’t going to back down from it.”
File photo by Chris Rief
Group Offers Cheap Drinks to Encourage Voting — A nonprofit group will outside a half dozen Arlington polling stations on Tuesday, handing out wristbands good for cheap drinks at Clarendon bars, to “encourage young voters to celebrate democracy” and “draw more apathetic young voters out on Election Day.” [Washington Post]
Arlington Asking for Aquatics Center Feedback — Should Arlington County build the stalled Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center? If so, what kind of features should it include? That’s what the county is asking in a new online survey. Arlington originally launched a public input process for the planned aquatics facility in March. [InsideNova]
Airport to Cease Being a Homeless Haven — Starting today, Reagan National Airport will be kicking out the homeless who have used it as a makeshift shelter. Because it was clean, safe and open 24/7, dozens of local homeless individuals would pretend to be waylaid travelers and sleep in the airport’s terminals overnight. Increased use as a homeless sanctuary prompted airport officials to decide to no longer tolerate what will now be treated as trespassing. [Washington Post]
Fuel Spill at DCA — On Friday hazmat crews and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to a reported spill of 7,500-9,000 gallons of jet fuel on the south side of Reagan National Airport. The spill has been largely contained and is not a threat to drinking water, officials say. [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Vandiik
In a press release Sept. 3, which was published on the county website but apparently not sent to news outlets, ACPD said that residents “should avoid giving panhandlers money directly.”
“There’s no telling what the cash will be used for,” said an ACPD captain, referring specifically to those to beg for money on traffic medians. “Officers have even seen those who appear to be indigent drive off in their own cars after working an intersection.”
The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which helps the homeless, has echoed the police department’s anti-roadside-panhandling call.
“Most panhandlers are not homeless, and most homeless are not panhandlers,” Kathy Sibert, CEO of A-SPAN, told the Arlington Connection newspaper earlier this summer.
Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey, who first dug up the police press release, points out that many roadside panhandlers seem to be part of a coordinated group.
“It’s pretty clear most of the panhandling in A-town is coordinated in teams,” McCaffrey wrote on his blog. “I once even asked Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy whether she’d be trying to collect business-license fees, it’s so coordinated.”
Two years ago, 88 percent of respondents to an ARLnow poll said that police should be more aggressive with roadside panhandlers. However, police say the beggars are within their constitutional rights.
Police recommend that those who wish to make a positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate instead donate to groups like A-SPAN or the Arlington Food Assistance Network (AFAC).
The full ACPD press release, after the jump.
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.
“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.
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.”
Wind Advisory Today — A wind advisory is in effect from noon until midnight today. Forecasters warn of 20-30 MPH winds with potentially damaging gusts up to 50 MPH. [National Weather Service]
Body Discovered Near DCA — A woman’s body was discovered near Reagan National Airport over the weekend. The body was found in the water around where Four Mile Run flows into the Potomac. [WJLA]
School Bus Camera Law in Effect — An new ordinance that will fine drivers caught on camera passing stopped school buses is now in effect. The ordinance, which was approved by the Arlington County Board in September, calls for high resolution cameras to be installed on the “stop arms” of school buses. Fines collected as a result of the ordinance will go to Arlington Public Schools. [WTOP]
Arlington’s Approach to Housing the Homeless — Arlington County is taking a “no-silos” approach to housing the chronically homeless that ignores divisions among county agencies. Arlington has housed nearly 300 chronically homeless men and women since 2011. Officials say the cost to house each person is $22,000 per year, compared to $45,000 in jail, shelter and emergency room costs should that person stay on the streets. [Washington Post]
Blues Watch Soccer at Four Courts — A “large contingent” of hockey players from the St. Louis Blues — including Patrik Berglund, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Marcel Goc, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko — reportedly watched the Chelsea vs. Manchester City English Premier League soccer game at Four Courts in Courthouse over the weekend. The Blues then beat the Capitals Sunday afternoon by a score of 4-3. [Instagram]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The county’s Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS) opens for the 2014-2015 season tomorrow (Saturday). This will be the final season for the EWS, as the permanent homeless shelter under construction in Courthouse is set to open in spring.
The EWS will be open for vulnerable residents every day from 4:00 p.m.-9:00 a.m., through March 31. Hours may be extended on especially cold days, which happened during last season’s cold snap. The temporary facility at 2049 15th Street N. accommodates up to 74 people and other nearby facilities can be used as overflow during severe weather.
Arlington County funds the EWS and it is operated by the nonprofit Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), under the supervision of the county’s Department of Human Services. It provides homeless residents with facilities for sleeping, eating, showering and doing laundry.
A-SPAN also will operate the new Homeless Services Center (2020 14th Street N.) when it opens, which is expected to be in April.
“We are anticipating a seamless transition,” said Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “A-SPAN will continue to be the service provider and they’ve demonstrated they are great at what they do.”
The goal for employees of the new Homeless Services Center is not only to house homeless residents, but also to identify and tackle the issues that drove a person to homelessness. County agencies and nonprofit partners will continue to provide resources such as employment training, financial management assistance, and treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
“We’ve got a head start on this even before the new center opens – it’s essentially the same approach we used for the recently completed 100 Homes Campaign,” said Larrick. “It’s the approach we use in our Permanent Supportive Housing Programs – where we get the housing piece in place and then ensure that people get the supports they need to maintain their housing.”
In February, the County Board approved a $6.6 million contract for the new Homeless Services Center, and construction began in April. Right now, workers are continuing to repair weather-damaged columns in the former open parking area under part of the second floor. This known issue was part of the contract. Once the building inspector approves the fixes, workers can removed the extra steel supports installed to carry building loads during repairs, and move on to the next phase. Construction is scheduled to wrap up in March, in time for the April opening.
When finished, the shelter will house 50 year round beds on the third floor, with room for an additional 25 beds during the winter. The second floor will have a kitchen and dining area, in addition to a day room and offices for counseling. Floors four through seven will be converted to county offices at a later date.
Construction updates will be posted online.
The achievement will be celebrated tonight at the annual Community Meeting on Homelessness. The public is welcome to attend the event, which will be held at the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association (NRECA) Conference Center (4301 Wilson Blvd) from 7:00-8:30 p.m. John Harvey, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, will be the keynote speaker. He will talk about Virginia’s efforts to end veteran homelessness by the end of next year. Other speakers include County Board members and State Senator Barbara Favola.
County staff worked with nonprofit organizations to find housing for the people selected for 100 Homes. The following programs allowed for the housing:
- Arlington County Permanent Supportive Housing — 63 housed
- Housing Grant or Housing choice voucher — 12 housed
- Veterans (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Voucher) — 11 housed
- Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing — 13 housed
- Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence — 1 housed
“This is an important milestone in our efforts to prevent and end homelessness,” said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. “It’s wonderful to see residents, nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations, the business community and County government coming together to make a difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Of the 100 residents housed since the program launched in 2011, 93 continue to live in the housing. Many of them had been on the streets for years and had difficulty accessing and maintaining housing.
“The retention rate has been remarkable,” said Kathy Sibert, president and chief executive officer of Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN). “The key to this success is the supportive services that come with the housing. Case managers have done an outstanding job working with the clients to address issues like managing finances, maximizing employment and benefits, and connecting with mental health and substance abuse services.”
Just because the 100 Homes Campaign reached its goal does not mean the push to end homelessness in Arlington is finished. There will be a new initiative announced at tonight’s public meeting, called “Zero: 2016.” Arlington is joining the nationwide effort to end veteran and chronic homelessness.
“The [100 Homes] legacy will live on,” said Arlington Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “We learned a lot during the campaign, and partnered with a lot of great nonprofits, and we are carrying forward a lot of the concepts we learned.”
The number of homeless individuals — adults without children on the street or in one of the county’s shelters — dropped from 268 to 178 from 2013 to this year, a 34 percent decrease, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which published the report.
The Arlington Department of Human Services coordinated the local study, and staff and volunteers with the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) performed the field work. The number of chronically homeless in Arlington fell 52 percent from the 2013 survey, from 156 to 74. The number of homeless families in Arlington also dropped 46 percent, but the county explained in its press release that some families who were counted as homeless in the study last year no longer fit the homeless criteria.
Arlington’s homelessness officials warn that, while the numbers are undoubtedly encouraging, observers shouldn’t give too much credence to a “point-in-time” count. The survey was conducted the night of Jan. 29 this year, when temperatures dipped down to 13 degrees overnight.
“Some people may be homeless and we may not be able to count them,” Jan-Michael Sacharko, director of development for A-SPAN told ARLnow.com. “We did find abandoned tents or places that used to be used for shelter. People might have rented a hotel room for the night or pooled resources with each other for shelter.”
The survey is conducted to comply with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s snapshot surveys. HUD changed their methodology this year, requiring localities to conduct the study overnight, where previously it was conducted from sunup to sundown, Sacharko said.
The COG’s report said the cold may have “depressed the unsheltered count,” but Sacharko doesn’t think the numbers should be disregarded entirely. To give an idea of just how harsh the winter was, Sacharko said the Emergency Winter Shelter opened for full days 30 times this winter, compared to just eight times in 2013.
“We don’t know the exact numbers, but we know we’ve reduced the [homeless] population,” he said. “There’s definitely been a reduction in the number. There are definitely more people getting into housing.”
In addition to A-SPAN’s volunteer efforts, Sacharko credited Arlington’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the 100 Homes Campaign, which places previously homeless individuals and families into permanent housing, for the reduction.
“The point-in-time count is one of several important indicators we use to gauge progress in the effort to prevent and end homelessness in our community,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release announcing the study. “There is still much work to do, but I commend the organizations and individuals who have played a role in this effort.”
Daycare Owner Sorry for Leaving Child Outside — An Arlington home daycare owner says she’s sorry for leaving a three-year-old girl outside in the rain and cold without a jacket or shoes. Police were called to the home after neighbors say they heard the girl crying and trying to get back in the home. [WJLA]
Arlington Teacher Surprised by Award — Barrett Elementary School teacher Joshua McLaughlin was surprised Tuesday afternoon when he was presented the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award during a school-wide assembly. McLaughlin is one of eight teachers to win the award along with a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 classroom supply credit. [Arlington Public Schools]
A-SPAN Making Progress on 100 Homes Initiative — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network continues to make progress on its 100 Homes initiative. So far A-SPAN has placed 87 formerly homeless individuals into housing, including 12 chronically homeless veterans. [Falls Church News-Press]
Westover Farmers Market Starts Summer Hours — The Westover Farmers Market will begin its summer hours on Sunday, May 4. The market will be open an hour earlier than the winter market, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [Westover Farmers Market]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Airlines to Drop 17 Nonstop Flights at DCA — American Airlines and US Airways are dropping nonstop service to 17 cities — including Detroit, San Diego, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach and Nassau, Bahamas — from Reagan National Airport. The move is part of a deal with the government that was struck in order to win approval for the merger of the two airlines. [WJLA/Associated Press]
Preservationists Worry About Home Tear-Downs — The pace of home tear-downs in Arlington has been steadily rising over the past five years. Preservation Arlington says 179 houses, out of the county’s stock of 28,400 single-family homes, received permits to be torn down in 2013. “The looming demolition of these houses and buildings represents an incredible loss of history, architecture, time, energy, and materials,” the group said in a blog post. [Washington Post, Preservation Arlington]
Rich Getting Richer Faster in North Arlington — The northern-most parts of Arlington, along the Fairfax County border, have seen a dramatic 25+ percent rise in incomes over $200,000 in the past decade or so. That far out-paced areas along Arlington’s Metro corridors. [Patch]
Volunteers Needed for Homeless Census — Volunteers are being sought for the annual “Point in Time” count of homeless individuals in Arlington County. The count will take place this year between Jan. 29-30. [Volunteer Arlington]
Photo courtesy @flyidca
Arlington: Top ‘City’ For Successful, Educated, Single Women — Arlington is the top “city” in the country for women who are college graduates, who have a high income, and who are single, according to the real estate website Redfin. As an added bonus to the single, successful women, there are 6 percent more single men than women. [Redfin]
Homeless Twins Still Recovering from Assault — Two homeless, 26-year-old twins are still recovering from a vicious attack that took place outside Arlington Central Library last month. Through donations and determination, they are attempting to overcome their injuries and get their lives back on track. [Washington Post]
Pike Business Owners Waiting for Streetcar — Though it’s controversial with residents, many Columbia Pike business owners are counting on Arlington County’s plan to build a streetcar system along the corridor. Among those business owners is Adriana Torres, owner of Cafe Sazon, who recently had to take a full-time job at Home Depot to pay the business’ bills. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Lawrence Cheng Photography
The county will tap into the $3 million Economic Stability Fund it established to lessen the sequestration’s impact on the community. The County Board voted on Saturday to send $39,000 from the fund to the Department of Human Services for its Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) program.
The Board voted to tap into the fund for the first time after learning of cuts to federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding, which would trickle down to the local level. The Virginia Department of Social Services informed the county its contribution would be reduced by $39,000 in FY 2014 due to cuts in the state HPRP funding, which originates at HUD.
“This is the first time the County has had to tap into its sequestration fund, but unfortunately, we are quite certain it will not be the last,” said Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada. “Across the nation, communities are feeling the impact of sequestration. These indiscriminate cuts are affecting the lives of real people, in large and small ways, and that impact is only going to grow as time goes on. In this instance, we are able to use the special funds to continue important safety net services for some of our most vulnerable individuals and families.”
HPRP has been in existence since 2009 and receives funding through a combination of $249,000 of state money to support case management, and $200,000 of local money to support housing-related financial assistance. Four non-profits provide case management services: Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Doorways for Women and Families, the Arlington Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless and Volunteers of America-Chesapeake.
Individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless can qualify for short term financial assistance from HPRP. Participating families are limited to $1,200 for homelessness prevention and $3,000 for rapid re-housing. Participants also receive case management services such as guidance for developing household budgets and maintaining their housing.
So far, county staff has not identified any other sequester cuts that would require a dip into the reserve fund. Although the state has experienced some cuts it hasn’t yet passed those on to localities.
County Invests in Supportive Housing — Arlington County has matched a $500,000 grant from the Arlington Community Foundation to convert 10 units at the Marbella Apartments in Rosslyn to Permanent Supportive Housing. The apartments will be offered to the county’s most vulnerable homeless residents at a rate affordable to those making about $22,500 per year. [Arlington County]
Spring Athletic Achievements — Sportswriter Dave Facinoli recounts some of the most notable achievements of Arlington teams and athletes this spring. [Sun Gazette]
Advertising Firm Moves to Rosslyn — Local ad agency LM&O Advertising is moving to Rosslyn. The 94-person company signed a 10-year lease for the top floor of the new office building at 1776 Wilson Blvd, which will also soon be home to Pier 1 Imports and 100 Montaditos. LM&O plans to move from its current office in Courthouse in December.
Ribbon Cutting for New Apartment Complex — A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 9:30 this morning for the new Sedona and Slate apartment complex at 1510 Clarendon Blvd in Rosslyn at 9:30. According to developer JBG: “Sedona is 271 units, and is about 70 percent leased. Slate is 203 units and will begin leasing soon; delivery is expected in July.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
One man’s palatial homeless camp near Rosslyn took VDOT crews five hours to tear down using heavy machinery and numerous dump trucks, WJLA reported.
The camp, located in the woods along the path that leads from the Mt. Vernon Trail to N. Lynn Street, near the Key Bridge, was about half the size of a football field. The camp was reportedly the work of one El Salvadoran immigrant, who spent years building it, eventually adding a makeshift kitchen, bedroom, and living room.
VDOT crews with bulldozers and heavy machinery spent hours tearing the camp down on Monday, after complaints from some passersby, according to WJLA.