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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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Arlington Reaches ‘Functional Zero’ for Veteran Homelessness in 2015

A homeless man in South Arlington (File photo by Chris Rief)

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 

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Morning Notes

Autumn leaves (Flickr pool photo by Vandiik)

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

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Arlington Police: Don’t Give to Roadside Panhandlers

Money (file photo)The Arlington County Police Department is urging motorists to stop giving money to roadside panhandlers, suggesting that many may not be as needy as they claim to be.

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.

Stepping from car to car in search of loose coins and bills, they risk their own safety walking a dangerous line between protected free speech and being an obstruction, Arlington Police Captain Patrick Donahue explains. They’re the subject of “constant calls” to Donahue’s District 1 from residents who are sympathetic but leery or just plain angry about being approached when they are stopped at a red light and unable to move.

Despite heart-wrenching signs that speak of homelessness or even physical traumas displayed from traffic medians, Donahue says motorists should avoid giving panhandlers money directly. It usually “does not improve their situation” since there’s no telling what the cash will be used for, Donahue says. Officers have even seen those who appear to be indigent drive off in their own cars after working an intersection.

For everyone’s safety and the guaranteed benefit of those in need, police and social services recommend contributing to familiar organizations in the community that help the hungry and the homeless. Two such groups: Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and theArlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). The County Department of Human Services can suggest a host of recognized charities.

Although Arlington Police have arrested “quite a few” panhandlers on charges of obstructing traffic, jaywalking and even fighting over choice locations, Donahue says that courts have generally upheld the right of panhandlers to patrol curbs of roadways. It’s an issue of basic constitutional rights.

So panhandlers keep returning to dangerous medians because motorists keep giving. “Never a good mix” in Donahue’s words.

Arlington has better, more proven ways to help those in need. It’s just a matter of giving in the right direction.

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Housing Homeless Vets in the Shadow of the Pentagon

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

For 20 years before that, Hill, who served in New Mexico, Italy and Nuremburg, Germany, was chronically homeless. He had lived on family’s couches and floors, and when he could no longer do that, he slept on the streets of D.C., in shelters in Alexandria and in 24-hour laundromats along Columbia Pike. There were nights he slept in Reagan National Airport, he said; anywhere with a roof and unlocked doors.

Last June, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, after working with Hill for months getting his finances and documentation in order, found Hill an apartment, secured housing subsidies and provided support to make sure he sustained himself there.

“Housing is the key to ending homelessness,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathy Sibert told ARLnow.com from her office yesterday. “A lot of the things people take for granted, but just getting up, getting a meal, having clean clothes, maintaining your hygiene, that can take an hour when you’re in a home. When you live on the streets, it could take all day.”

Now, Hill has a place to live and a place to take care of his infant son, who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock attention.

Hill’s plight was far from unique in Arlington and around the country. January’s point-in-time homeless count revealed there are 239 homeless individuals and family in the county, 19 of whom are veterans. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), 12 percent of all homeless people in the U.S. are veterans, about 50,000 total on any given night.

“You come out [of the military] and you’re lost,” Hill said. “In the Army, everyone did everything for you. You didn’t develop skills you need to make your own decisions.”

Homlessness becomes the new normal, he said. Waking up, finding the places that are giving out food, panhandling for money to buy drinks, and finding a safe sleeping spot; all of it becomes a routine that is increasingly difficult to break.

Kathy Sibert of A-SPAN“You can try to change, but for veterans will mental issues, it just takes one incident of something not happening for you, and you go right back into that mode,” he said. Even for homeless people with jobs, finding a place to live is not as easy as it sounds.

To get an apartment, you need valid ID, and proof of income. Hill, who had no need for a car and no place to store files, needed to get a valid ID. For that, he needed a birth certificate, another piece of documentation lost with his home. He needed to apply for a copy of the birth certificate and a copy of his social security cards. All of the ID applications cost money — money he did not have.

That, he said, is how he wound up on the streets for the better part of two decades. Once he relocated himself to Arlington, he immediately found A-SPAN, and the nonprofit immediately got to work finding him a home.

“Veterans don’t broadcast to each other ‘this is where you find the help you need,'” Hill said. “But when I came to Arlington, everyone knew A-SPAN.”

Last year, Arlington completed its successful 100 Homes campaign, housing more than 100 of its chronically homeless. It was part of a nationwide 100,000 homes campaign, which, when it concluded last June, wound up housing 108,000 people. Hill was honored with a ceremony in D.C. — he was the 100,000th person housed in the campaign.

Hill was one of 16 veterans Arlington housed in the campaign, Sibert said. By 2015, the White House has set a goal of effectively eliminating veteran homelessness in the country, and all homelessness by 2016. The initiative, called Zero:2016, is already off to a good start: according to the NCHV, veteran homelessness has been reduced by 70 percent since 2005.

“We’ve made great strides in eliminating homelessness among the veterans in our community, but we are not resting on our laurels,” Arlington Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick said. “Earlier this year Arlington signed on as part of the national Zero:2016 initiative to house homeless veterans and the chronically homeless. The recently completed 100 Homes Campaign not only got many of our most vulnerable people off the streets or out of shelters and into stable housing, it forged stronger ties across the entire continuum of care and taught us how to tap into important resources to help house vets. We’re taking the lessons learned from 100 Homes and using them to make Zero:2016 a success.”

Despite the fact that Arlington is a veteran-dense county, its veteran homelessness rate is below the national average. Sibert said that’s not necessarily because the Pentagon is a neighbor, instead it’s because everyone in the county recognizes the urgency.

“There are a lot of people here with military backgrounds,” she said. “Arlington as a whole is a caring community, and that extends to our veterans, too.”

File photo, bottom

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