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.
World of Beer Gets Rebranded — The Ballston location of World of Beer is no longer part of the chain and has instead been rebranded as “Crafthouse.” The restaurant — along with former WoB locations in Fairfax and Reston — is now offering a full menu of American craft fare and a drink menu that includes local beers, bourbons, whiskey, wine and other spirits. [Reston Now]
County’s Stance on Rising Homeless Population — Via an Arlington County press release: “We believe that the increase in Arlington’s numbers this year do not reflect the long-term trend in our County,” said Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. “Since 2008, when we launched the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Arlington has cut its number of homeless persons by more than half. We’ve made great strides in housing veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families.” [Arlington County]
Metro Changes Next Month — Starting June 25, Metrorail’s operating hours are being shortened while rail and bus fares are increasing, rush hour rail frequency is decreasing and some bus routes are being discontinued. [WMATA]
Freddie’s Named Top Brunch Spot — Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, a gay bar in Crystal City that hosts a Broadway brunch on Saturdays and a Champagne brunch on Sundays, has been named one of the 100 best brunch spots in America by OpenTable. [OpenTable]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Homeless Population on the Rise in Arlington — “Most jurisdictions saw declines in homelessness from 2016, though the population… increased by 33 percent in Arlington County. Kathleen Sibert, the president and chief executive of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, noted that because Arlington has a relatively small homeless population, modest fluctuations can create dramatic-looking percentage increases or decreases.” [Washington Post]
More on New Rosslyn McDonald’s — The new state-of-the-art McDonald’s in Rosslyn has some food offerings not available elsewhere in D.C. It has an in-house bakery that serves fresh pastries; the other closest McDonald’s with a bakery is in New York City. Also, the restaurant will soon offer two special ice cream sundaes: turtle brownie and strawberry shortcake. [Rosslyn BID]
County Seeks Volunteers for ‘BioBlitz’ — “Arlington County is seeking dedicated volunteers to support its May 20 ‘BioBlitz,’ a quick-but-intense wilderness exploration that will produce a catalog of our natural holdings spotted within a 24-hour window. Think of it as a snapshot of the common-to-rare wildlife that can be found hiding in plain sight within our borders.” [Arlington County]
Drafthouse Continues to Critique Kennedy Center — Arlington Cinema Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout has penned another letter to customers that makes the case for why the Kennedy Center is competing unfairly for comedy acts. The letter also accuses the center of “lying” and a “cover up” after Godbout went public with his initial criticism. [Drafthouse Comedy]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The incident happened behind Fire Station 10, in Rosslyn Highlands Park, according to scanner traffic.
“At approximately 3:32 p.m. on March 22, officers were dispatched to the report of two subjects allegedly engaged in sexual activity in public view,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report. “As officers were conducting the investigation, the female subject charged at the officer and struck him repeatedly.”
“Nicole Faircloth, 42, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with assault and battery on police and performing a sexual act in a public place,” the crime report continued. “Petko Ubiparipovic, 42, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with performing a sexual act in a public place. Both were held on bond.”
Arlington Population Continues to Rise — The latest Census Bureau estimate of Arlington’s population is 230,050, a 0.9 percent rise over the previous year. [InsideNova]
LaHood to Review WMATA — Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been tapped by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to conduct an independent review of Metro’s “operating, governance, and financial conditions.” The review will “develop recommendations for potential WMATA reforms, including mitigating growth in annual operating costs and sustainable funding.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington Post]
Private Investigators Set Up Shop in Arlington — A group of private investigators is trying to solve the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last July. The group, which does not have the support of Rich’s family, is working out of a “war room” in Arlington as it tries to piece together clues about the fatal shooting in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. [DCist, WJLA]
County Board Hears Complaint About Poo — A resident’s complaint at a County Board meeting, about a homeless man “appropriating” a bus stop in Rosslyn, led to the following sentence in the Sun Gazette: “County-government spokesman Mary Curtius said it was ‘exceedingly rare’ to find human waste at bus stops.” [InsideNova]
Schaeffer’s Favorite Arlington Things — Eric Schaeffer, co-founder and artistic director of Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, recently shared some of his favorite local spots. Among them: French store Le Marche and Irish pub Samuel Beckett’s, both in Shirlington, along with Pupatella pizzeria in Bluemont and P.F. Chang’s in Ballston. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Seven Arlington students graduated Friday from a culinary program that trains individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the skills necessary to get a job in a commercial kitchen.
This was the sixth incarnation of the D.C. Central Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program, which meets locally at the Fairlington Community Center. The graduation ceremony was held in Rosslyn Friday afternoon and the Arlington students were joined by eight other students from the Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter in D.C.
One of the speakers at the ceremony was Napolean Boakye, a graduate of the fifth Arlington class. He first found out about the program while living in the Carpenter’s Shelter in Old Town Alexandria. As a result of the program, he was offered two jobs in the culinary field and he now works with the National Youth Escape Arena in Maryland.
“This job training sponsored by Arlington County positively influenced me and prepared me to change my way of thinking and my life,” said Boakye. “I said to myself, never again. I’m tired of failure. I’ve been there, done that, I’m moving on to success.”
Two students won the program’s Ron Swanson Life Skills Award: Bryce Churchman from the Arlington program and Gary Lucas from the D.C program.
Along with culinary classes, the students also receive self-empowerment classes and get to train outside of the classroom, with each student receiving a month-long internship. Some of the internship sites included the Key Bridge Marriott, Mess Hall in D.C. and Nando’s Peri-Peri.
The graduation rate for Arlington students ranges between 85 to 90 percent and graduates have an 90 percent job placement rate.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
That’s according to figures released today by Arlington County, which conducted a count of homeless individuals on the streets and in shelters in January. The county credited two of its initiatives — 100 Homes and Zero: 2016 — with playing “key roles” in reducing homelessness by helping the homeless to secure stable housing.
“This is great news and further confirmation that our strategies are working,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “By not only sheltering people from the elements, but helping them get back on their feet, we are saving lives and strengthening our community. It is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.”
(The opening of Arlington’s new Homeless Services Center last year likely also helped.)
By Arlington’s count, there are 174 homeless people in Arlington — including 124 singles and 50 people in families.
“No families counted were without shelter,” the county noted.
Earlier this year the county announced that it had achieved its goal of “functional zero” veteran homelessness in 2015.
Arlington is launching two new initiatives intended to curb homelessness. One is the establishment of a Youth Task Force “to examine the nature and scope of youth homelessness.” The other is a “Risk Reduction Fund” that will allow landlords to loosen their rental eligibility requirements and thus take in formerly homeless tenants. The fund will reimburse landlords for “vacancy and damage costs” associated with such tenants.
The full county press release, after the jump.
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.”