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Morning Notes

Good News for Ed Center Project — “It may not come with all the bells and whistles, but county school officials should be able to convert the Arlington Education Center building into classroom space without exceeding the $37 million budgeted for the project. Two estimates… came in slightly under budget to turn the former school-system headquarters into classroom space for 500 to 600 students.” [InsideNova]

Succession Question for Va.’s Leaders — Under fire for each of their own controversies, resignations by Virginia’s Democratic governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general could end up triggering a special election or even elevating a Republican state lawmaker into one of the top jobs. Meanwhile, the chaos in Richmond was the lead story on the national evening news this week — twice — and made the cover of this morning’s New York Post, with the headline “Virginia is for Losers.” [Politico, Twitter]

Amazon and Homelessness — “Along with the promise of 25,000 high-paying jobs will come more expensive housing, and possibly, more people priced out of homes, and some, falling through the cracks. Seattle, where Amazon is based, has a huge problem with homelessness. Will Seattle’s problems become ours?” [WUSA 9]

Possible Presidential Candidate Lives in Arlington — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is considering a run for president, reportedly rents a three-bedroom home in Arlington with her husband, for their time in the D.C. area. The current rent is estimated at $4,500 per month. [Heavy]

Merger of Banks with Local Branches — “BB&T will buy SunTrust Banks for about $28 billion in an all-stock deal, the companies said on Thursday, creating the sixth largest U.S. lender in the biggest bank deal since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.” [CNBC]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington’s ‘Habitual Drunkards:’ Prosecutors Enforce a Controversial Law Impacting the Homeless

Over the last few years, Arlington police and prosecutors have embraced a controversial tactic to deal with people who are frequently drunk in public — but most county residents don’t even know it exists.

The unusual process, known as “interdiction,” allows county prosecutors to ask a judge to declare someone a “habitual drunkard” if they’ve committed several alcohol-related offenses. That designation means these “drunkards” can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed for up to a year if they’re found so much as buying or drinking alcohol again.

Virginia and Utah are the only states in the entire country with this sort of law on the books; the commonwealth’s statute passed just before the turn of the 20th century.

Accordingly, interdictions are far from commonplace in the county — prosecutors estimate that they’ve only interdicted 12 people dating back to September 2015, and that just 50 people around Arlington are currently deemed “drunkards.”

But the latter figure is the third highest for any locality across the entire state, according to statistics compiled by the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center. Only Virginia Beach and Roanoke have more interdicted people, with 616 and 140 respectively.

And Arlington’s place on that list disturbs attorneys and advocates alike, given the brewing controversy over interdictions.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, the county’s top prosecutor, dubs interdiction a “tool of last resort,” helping officers force people who are constantly drunk to finally get help. Yet critics believe it has a massively disproportionate impact on the homeless, and that police use it as a cudgel against people living on the streets who are struggling with substance abuse issues.

Others still argue that it robs interdicted people of due process — prosecutors request the “drunkard” designation in a civil hearing rather than a criminal one, meaning that even indigent defendants aren’t entitled to have an attorney present for the proceedings.

A legal challenge to the law on those grounds is currently working its way through federal court, while an Arlington public defender-turned-state lawmaker is working to repeal the statute in this year’s General Assembly session.

Yet, as those efforts proceed, some legal observers can’t understand why county police and prosecutors still pursue interdictions at all, given their stated commitment to other kinds of criminal justice reform.

“It’s inappropriate, unfair, and it doesn’t work,” Brad Haywood, Arlington’s chief public defender, told ARLnow. “In over 15 years as an attorney, I’ve served as a public defender in two of the few jurisdictions that still actively enforce this law. While I can think of many who owe their sobriety to residential alcohol treatment, intensive outpatient services and the expertise and compassion of mental health professionals, I can’t think of anyone who owes their sobriety to interdiction. Not a single person.”

Criminalizing the homeless, or a ‘last resort’ for addicts?

To Haywood, who has strongly criticized Stamos in the past, interdiction effectively criminalizes homelessness. After all, he points out that the law “only targets people who possess or drink alcohol while visible to others,” which essentially leaves just the homeless, many of whom turn to alcohol to make it through the day or are gripped by addiction.

“They live their entire lives in public,” Haywood said. “If they have alcohol, drink it, or are drunk, they will be seen, and under this statute, they will be arrested.”

Of course, he believes there are other “problem drinkers” around the county. As he puts it: “I read ARLnow, I know what happens on the Wilson Boulevard corridor on weekends.”

But he argues police have embraced a completely different strategy for those cases, choosing to work with popular bars to encourage stronger partnerships and prevent arrests, even though the circumstances are similar.

“If the goal of interdiction is to curb problem drinking generally, and to be equitable about it, then I’d think the Arlington bar scene would receive some attention,” Haywood said. “It hasn’t, obviously, and I’m not suggesting it should, but if it had, you’d have certainly have heard about it by now. “

However, law enforcement officials note that they’re not using interdictions indiscriminately, or targeting all homeless people. County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says officers ask for interdictions “only in the most significant cases, where public safety resources are utilized for the same individual on a [recurring] basis.”

She adds that police take into consideration whether people are committing “criminal violations while intoxicated” as well as “concerns for the safety of the individual or those around them” in making such a decision.

“The goal is not to wantonly incarcerate people,” Stamos said. “A lot of these people are not mindful of their surroundings and can be victimized… and it’s a safety concern. We see pedestrian accidents every single day, and in some cases it’s because people are wandering into the street.”

Stamos says that, in many cases, her office only interdicts people after family and friends urge some sort of drastic step to force them to get help.

For instance, Stamos says prosecutors have interdicted four people since July 2017 — and those people had an average of 19 prosecutions each for alcohol-related offenses before being declared a “drunkard.” Prosecutors pursued a high of 37 cases against one person; the person with the smallest total had been prosecuted four times, and even then they’d been drunk during 35 different encounters with county medics over a two-year period.

“This is absolutely a last resort to hook them up with services,” Stamos said. “It’s a deprivation of liberty, but it’s done with the purpose of getting these people in jail, and getting them sober.”

It may not be a perfect solution, but county officials say they work hard to find people with substance abuse issues once they’re in jail, then get them help.

Kelly Nieman, who works on the county’s forensic jail diversion team, says Arlington has been a leader across the state in finding ways to treat inmates’ mental health issues or substance abuse problems, which are often interconnected. She hopes that helps stop people from “revolving in and out of the system.”

“We have a model to intercept individuals at junctions when they butt up against the legal system,” Nieman said. “We screen people for services and develop a release plan to get them back into the community.”

Stamos says she’d love to have another way to “induce compliance” with a treatment program for homeless addicts, but she just doesn’t see one available to her prosecutors.

“Give us another tool, and we’ll use it,” Stamos said. “If you do away with this statute, give us more money for treatment services.”

While he acknowledges that the county does good work in this area, Haywood pushes back against the notion that workers at the county jail should be “front-line caretakers for the chronically mentally ill, which is what most interdicted people actually are.” He’d rather police connect the homeless to dedicated treatment services, rather than simply sending them to jail.

“That’s a job for mental health professionals, in settings appropriate to the treatment of addiction and serious mental illness,” Haywood said. “If what we want is to help the most destitute, vulnerable people in our community, we should ensure they have access to intensive mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and stop pretending we’re making the situation better by locking sick people away so the public can’t see them.”

Challenging the process

Elaine Poon, the managing attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center, also believes that the very manner in which the statute is written makes the process punitive, not rehabilitative. Her group is leading a legal challenge to the law, arguing that interdictions create a vicious cycle for people declared “drunkards.”

Poon notes that police can — and do — pursue all manner of charges against people who are drunk in public. What sets interdictions apart is that people designated as “drunkards” can be prosecuted for simply drinking alcohol or having it in their possession, which she believes help police wrack up charge after charge against the same people.

According to Stamos’ own statistics, the 12 people her office have interdicted since 2015 have subsequently been prosecuted an average of three times each for possessing alcohol or appearing drunk in public. Poon believes this shows how interdicting someone can simply compound the time they spend in jail, criminalizing people “just for being who they are: a homeless person on the street.”

Poon feels this is all the more disturbing because many people who are declared “drunkards” don’t understand the process, and don’t have legal representation at the hearing deciding whether they’ll be interdicted in the first place. Most homeless people rely on the service of court-appointed public defenders, as they can’t afford their own lawyers, but the civil nature of the interdiction proceedings means that a judge is not required to assign them counsel.

Stamos says her prosecutors go to great lengths to find people set for an interdiction hearing, and get them to a sign paperwork acknowledging they’re aware of when they can come to court.

But Poon points out that many of her clients easily lose any forms they’ve been given by police — they don’t have homes, after all — and don’t attend the hearings, or are too mentally ill to understand a complex legal matter.

Jennifer Carroll Foy, a former public defender in Arlington, says she’s often come to court and made such arguments to a judge about her interdicted clients. But her protests are commonly dismissed as a “collateral attack” on a civil case — even though that case has a direct impact on the charges her clients are facing.

“It may be a civil process, but there are criminal ramifications,” Foy said. “If there’s a possibility you’ll go to jail, I absolutely believe an attorney should be there.”

Stamos says her hands are tied by the statute in this case, arguing that public defenders “have no role” under the law in these interdiction cases.

“Their frustration shouldn’t be with my office, it should be with the system,” Stamos said.

Changing the law

Foy is in a unique position to address such displeasure with the law; she doubles as a state delegate representing parts of Prince William and Stafford counties, and has introduced legislation to repeal the “habitual drunkard” statute this year for a second time in a row.

Her bill died quickly in a subcommittee last year, but she’s more optimistic this time around, now that she’s worked to raise awareness about the issue.

“The most difficult part is educating people about it, because they don’t even know this law exists,” said Foy, a Democrat representing the House of Delegates’ 2nd District. “I hope it picks up a lot more traction this time.”

Though Democrats have a bit more clout in Richmond after a wave election in 2017, the party is still in the minority in both chambers of the General Assembly. That means Foy will face an uphill battle in getting anything passed, at least for now.

Poon is hopeful that the courts could provide some relief instead. A three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case last August, but Poon’s organization is appealing the ruling to the full court, which could have the final say on the law’s constitutionality.

However, she says it’s “a mystery” when, or if, the court will agree to take the case.

In the meantime, interdictions in Arlington continue. County police referred two more people to Stamos’ prosecutors to be designated as “drunkards” just last fall.

“We have to do better when it comes to how we help the most vulnerable class of citizen in this state,” Foy said. “We’re not doing a very good job right now.”

File photo

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‘Santa Bowl’ Flag Football Games to Touch Down in Long Bridge Park

DC Fray, a social sports organization in DC, will host its fourth annual Santa Bowl Flag Football Tournament Saturday at Long Bridge Park.

Players can head to 475 Long Bridge Drive on Dec. 1 to play in the seven-on-seven co-ed tournament. Registration — $49 per player and $450 per team of at least 12 players — closes on Wednesday (Nov. 28), or when the tournament fills up.

The Santa Bowl will benefit the local non-profit Bridges to Independence, which offers assistance to help people out of homelessness.

Teams are asked to donate at least five grocery bags worth of the items, including:

  • nonperishable food, excluding peanut butter
  • new, full-size toiletries
  • diapers and wipes
  • paper products including toilet paper and paper towels
  • gift cards to Giant, Shoppers, Safeway or Target
  • Metro SmartTrip cards

Prizes will be given to the top placing tournament winners and also to the team that collects the most donations.

Photo via DC Fray/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Arlington Holds Disaster Drill for Cyclists — “On Saturday BikeArlington and the Office of Emergency Management held the county’s first Disaster Relief Trial, modeled after such events in Oregon, Washington, and California… 70 registered families, teams, and individual bikers traveled throughout Arlington, stopping at four checkpoints and completing eight challenges.” [Local DVM]

Marymount Launches Internship Fund — “Marymount University has announced plans to financially support students who intern at non-profit organizations that do not have the resources to pay them. The new ‘Sister Majella Berg Internship Fund’ is a way to solidify partnerships between the university and local safety-net organizations, new Marymount University president Irma Becerra said.” [InsideNova]

AT&T Donates $30K to Local Nonprofit — “Bridges to Independence announced today a new contribution from AT&T. A private, nonprofit organization, Bridges is dedicated to serving families experiencing homelessness in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, VA. AT&T’s support will directly benefit Bridges’ mission by expanding the organization’s Youth Development Program which serves children experiencing homelessness.” [Press Release]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Chevy Chase Land Company… announced today the $90 million acquisition of 672 Flats, a 173-Unit Class A apartment building in the heart of Ballston.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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County Office Building, Homeless Shelter in Courthouse Flood Due to Broken Pipe

(Updated May 16, 9 a.m.) An Arlington County office building in Courthouse that’s home to the county’s 24-hour homeless shelter is cleaning up from some heavy flooding Tuesday (May 15).

A water pipe on the top floor of the seven-story building at 2020 14th Street N. broke Monday night (May 14), according to Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services.

Baxter told ARLnow that “drainage from the broken pipe impacted all areas of the building,” including the county’s Homeless Services Center, other government offices and even the Chelsea Market & Deli and Ragtime Restaurant on the building’s ground floor.

“County contractors are on-site cleaning up the water, repairing the pipe and recharging the chilled water system to restore HVAC services on floors 4-7,” Baxter wrote in an email. “HVAC services for the lower floors were not impacted.”

Baxter says the flooding has not impacted services at the shelter, but it has forced county employees working on the first and fifth floors to temporarily relocate to the other offices.

The county bought the building for $27 million in 2012, in part to open a new, year-round shelter for the homeless. The shelter opened in 2015.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Homelessness Still Falling in Arlington — The annual count of homeless individuals in the region found that the homeless population in Arlington is continuing to fall. According to numbers from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, there were 221 people experiencing homelessness in Arlington during the count this year. That’s down from 232 last year and 479 in 2013, but up from 174 in 2016. [MWCOG]

ACPD Using Robocalls to Catch Serial Flasher — Arlington County Police are using automated phone calls to ask residents for tips about the man wanted for repeated indecent exposure incidents in the Rosslyn, Courthouse and Ft. Myer Heights areas. [WJLA]

Twitter User Battles Shopping Carts — Like @CartsOfPCArl before it, @CartChaos22202 is fighting a lonely war against stray, abandoned shopping carts in Pentagon City and Crystal City. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Local Reaction to NYC Terror Attack — Local officials are offering words of condolence for the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in New York City. [Twitter, Twitter]

Did Gorka Park on a Rosslyn Sidewalk? — A photo posted on Twitter seems to show the Ford Mustang convertible owned by former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka parked on a sidewalk in front of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. It is unclear why Gorka would have parked on the sidewalk and he has thus far not confirmed that it was indeed him. [Twitter, Washingtonian, Washington Examiner]

More on Rosslyn Food Hall — New details about the new food hall planned for Rosslyn: it will be called Common Ground, it will have about 10 different food vendors and it is not expected to open until late 2018. [Washington Business Journal]

VRE Picks ‘Option 2’ for Crystal City — Virginia Railway Express says it will move forward with “Option 2” for its planned Crystal City station upgrade. The plan places the station within easy walking distance of the Crystal City Metro station but it was opposed by condominium residents concerned about noise and pollution. [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Homelessness Effort — “Now nine years into a 10-year push to end homelessness here, Arlington County has virtually wiped out homelessness among veterans, and it’s on track to house the vast majority of single individuals who still need a roof over their heads.” [Arlington Magazine]

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Morning Notes

Reaction to Las Vegas Shooting — Reactions from local officials are beginning to come in in response to the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert, which is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. “Will the corporate gun lobby please wake up? #PrayersAreNotEnough #HowManyMore?” tweeted state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D). Meanwhile, a “gun violence prevention roundtable” planned today in Alexandria, with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, has been cancelled “in light of today’s events.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Stats Behind Arlington’s Millennial Growth — The growth rate of Arlington’s millennial population between 2007 and 2013 was 82 percent, the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, development and transportation stats bear out how Arlington is growing and attracting young people. For instance, only 44 percent of Arlington’s population drives alone to work, compared to the 76.4 percent national average. [Bisnow]

Conservative Reporter vs. Donut Store Employee — Ashley Rae Goldenberg, a reporter for the conservative Media Research Center who goes by the Twitter handle @Communism_Kills, says she was harassed on Twitter by an employee of the new Dunkin’ Donuts store in Virginia Square. [Twitter]

Bomb Threat at Rosslyn BuildingUpdated at 11:15 a.m. — Someone called 911 with a bomb threat against an office building on the 1100 block of Wilson Blvd Thursday evening. That is the same block as TV station WJLA (ABC 7). No explosives were found during a police search of the building. [Patch, Arlington County]

Teen Provides Art to the Formerly Homeless — Allison Stocks, a 15-year-old sophomore at Yorktown High School, founded a nonprofit that takes donations of art and then provides it to those “making the transition from homeless shelters into permanent housing,” thus helping to cover bare walls and make their new home feel more homey. [Washington Post]

Local Gamer Raises Money for Hurricane Relief — In the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, local resident Scott Jones helped raise more than $1,700 for disaster relief by broadcasting a 24-hour video game marathon from his Arlington apartment. Jones is one of numerous gamers who have used their gaming skills to raise serious cash for charitable causes. [Los Angeles Times]

Sports Pub Employees to Stand During Anthem — Late last week the Crystal City Sports Pub (529 23rd Street S.) sent a press release to broadcast outlets saying that its employees would “stand united for the national anthem” during Sunday’s football games. [WJLA]

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Homeless Population Decreasing Thanks to ‘Housing-First’ Approach

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.

It opens daily and provides shelter, medical respite and a day program. Its supportive housing programs have a 95 percent retention rate.

“What I’m hearing from business leaders as well as community members is they’re seeing less people on the streets [since the center opened],” Sibert said.

Prior to HSC, there was an A-SPAN-operated emergency winter shelter two blocks away, which was only open from November 1 to March 31.

“[HSC] allowed us to have a year-round shelter to serve that same population,” Larrick said. “We weren’t kicking people out on March 31, we were able to continue working with them. So, it formed a much stronger bridge to stability.”

Sibert explained that there will always be some people who live on the street, because for them it’s a lifestyle choice. Many such people suffer from mental illnesses which make them claustrophobic or antisocial, which deters them from living in a homeless shelter. It also makes them less likely to beg for money on the streets.

“Most homeless don’t panhandle because most homeless people don’t want you to know that they’re homeless,” said Sibert.

When a person frequents HSC where they shower every day, wear clean clothes, get free haircuts and take medication, passersby often have no idea they are actually homeless.

“It really is about treating them with dignity and respect and one of the things that I love about my staff is we never give up on anybody,” Sibert said.

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Morning Notes

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

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Morning Notes

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

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Public Fornication Leads to Police Altercation

Rosslyn Highlands park (photo via Arlington County)Two people have been arrested after police interrupted their very public lovemaking in Rosslyn.

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.”

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Morning Notes

Texas Jack's BBQ in Lyon Park (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

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

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Future Chefs Graduate from Culinary Training Program

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

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Arlington’s Homeless Population Down 64 Percent Over Past Three Years

Homeless man on a bench outside Arlington Central LibraryArlington’s homeless population is down 27 percent over the past year and 64 percent since 2013.

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.

For the third consecutive year, the number of persons who are homeless in Arlington has dropped, down 27 percent in January 2016 as compared to January 2015. The data comes from the community’s annual Point-in-Time Count. The total for the 2016 count was 174, down from 239 in 2015.

Overall, the number of homeless Arlingtonians counted has dropped 64 percent since 2013.

“This is great news and further confirmation that our strategies are working,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “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 2016 count was conducted January 27-28 as part of a regional effort, and includes people in shelters and on the streets.

Individuals

The number of homeless singles dropped 24 percent, from 164 in 2015 to 124 in 2016. This includes a 51 percent drop in the number of unsheltered homeless singles (from 39 in 2015 to 19 in 2016).

Two recent community efforts – the 100 Homes and Zero: 2016 campaigns – played key roles in reducing the number of homeless individuals.

“100 Homes and Zero: 2016 have given us a blueprint for success that we have incorporated into our ongoing work,” said Kathy Sibert, president and chief executive officer of A-SPAN, a local non-profit that helps homeless individuals. The two initiatives employed a deliberate approach – including using a by-name list of homeless individuals and holding monthly meetings to assess how they were progressing toward the goal of stable housing – that continues to work.

“Every person has unique circumstances,” said Sibert, “but the toolkit we’ve assembled is pretty strong and we’ve become adept at addressing challenges as they come.”

Families

The number of people counted in families considered homeless dropped 33 percent, from 75 in 2015 to 50 in 2016. No families counted were without shelter.

The reduction in the number of homeless families counted is, in part, a product of the County’s efforts to streamline services and prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place. Arlington implemented a Centralized Access System in 2015 – a single point of entry for individuals and families who have become homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless. The system quickly matches households with the interventions that will most effectively and efficiently prevent or end their homelessness and lead to stability.

“Shelters aren’t meant to be a first option,” said Cynthia Stevens, Housing Bureau chief for the Department of Human Services. “The prevention and diversion strategies we’ve employed are working well to keep households out of shelters. And when people do become homeless, we’re able to use Housing First strategies like rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing to get them out of the shelters and quickly back into permanent housing, where it is much easier to address issues like employment and health. “

New initiatives

The County’s Continuum of Care (CoC) — a network of interconnected programs and services to assist people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless — has established a Youth Task Force to examine the nature and scope of youth homelessness (both unaccompanied youth under 18 and transition age youth between 18 and 24). The CoC will be conducting a Youth Point-in-Time Count later in 2016.

Arlington also is launching a new partnership with community housing providers to reduce the risk to landlords who provide housing to households with significant housing barriers, such as poor credit, poor rental history or criminal background. Through this partnership, landlords will loosen eligibility criteria and gain access to a Risk Reduction Fund that is funded by the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and the Arlington Community Foundation, to cover some vacancy and damage costs. CoC agencies will provide services, including rental assistance and case management, to the households who come into housing under the program.

Challenges

“These numbers are great, but don’t be mistaken – we still have work to do,” said Stevens. “Many low-income and formerly homeless Arlington households continue to struggle with the high cost of rental housing, even after transitioning to a housing subsidy program.”

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