New Homeless Shelter Opens Today — Arlington County’s new $9 million Homeless Services Center in Courthouse opens today. Serving a county-wide homeless population of about 250, the shelter will provide a warm and safe place for homeless individuals to sleep at night, in addition to providing medical care, substance abuse and job training programs. [Arlington County, WAMU]
‘Good Morning Guy’ No Longer in Clarendon — “Good morning guy” Robert Gordon, a beloved Express newspaper distributor, is no longer handing out the free papers in Clarendon, disappointing many commuters. Where did he go, a reader asked? A Washington Post spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com: Gordon is still distributing the Express just down the Orange Line, in Rosslyn.
Wakefield Wins in Rout — The Wakefield High School football team defeated Mt. Vernon last night, 45-0, despite the Warriors’ starting running back being sidelined with an injury. [Washington Post]
Clement Proposes New Regional Park — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says that if she’s elected, she would work to build a new regional park inside the Beltway. “Arlington has nearly run out of public open space to keep pace with our population growth,” Clement writes in a press release. “We have to go back to the future and do what our parents and grandparents did 50 years ago: Buy land for new regional parks, outdoor recreation and playing fields.” [Clement for County Board, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County’s new year-round homeless shelter will open its doors next week.
The Homeless Services Center officially opens on Oct. 1 with day programs and will start offering beds to the county’s homeless population on Friday, Oct. 2.
The new shelter has 50 year-round beds — 36 on the men’s side and 14 on the women’s side — and 25 “hypothermia prevention beds” for cold winter nights.
The center has a sitting room for people to relax or watch TV, a cafeteria serving meals around the clock and a classroom, where the shelter plans to hold job training, budgeting and art classes, said Kathy Sibert, the president and CEO of Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
The shelter is colorful, with a bright orange wall greeting people as they approach the front desk. The bedroom walls are painted blue on the women’s side and green on the men’s side. Even the floors are colorful, with green tiling on the women’s side and blue on the men’s side.
Macy’s will be providing sheets in blues and greens for the beds, Sibert said, making the accommodations slightly less spartan.
“Anita [Friedman], the director of Department of Human Services, and I were really intent that this wouldn’t look like an institute,” she said.
The color extends to the bathrooms, which have blue or green tiles instead of gray, said Scott Miller, senior director of development at A-SPAN.
“Color costs nothing,” he said. “Let’s make this place welcoming.”
The center will replace the emergency winter shelter two blocks away in Courthouse, which was open from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. Other homeless services, including meals, will also be done at the new shelter.
“We’re going to have everything in one place, which is awesome,” Sibert said.
Having the shelter open 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year means A-SPAN will rely on volunteers to help keep things running, in addition to the 30 A-SPAN staff members, Miller said.
“We gobble up 15,000 volunteer hours here,” he said.
The new shelter is located directly across of the police station and near some Courthouse condominiums. Neighbors had voiced security concerns about having the shelter so close to their homes.
In response, A-SPAN hired security officers to patrol inside and outside of the building and installed cameras. People at the shelter will be allowed to go out for smoke breaks, but A-SPAN will limit it to three or four people going on a break at a time.
“Here’s the thing. You’ve got to remember that they’re people, too,” Sibert said.
There may still be occasional problems that arise, admits DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick, but A-SPAN and the County are working hard to take preventative measures.
“We want to be good neighbors,” he said.
Concerned residents can call Sibert or the homeless shelter to report problems, she said. There is also a Homeless Services Center Neighborhood Advisory Committee to help keep positive communication between the county and neighbors regarding issues with the shelter.
The county has worked with the police department to train about half of its offices on crisis intervention techniques, which help officers identify people with possible mental illnesses and bring them to a hospital instead of jail.
“Many, many officers have that training and are good at working with mental illnesses,” Larrick said.
About one-third of homeless people in Arlington have a mental illness, including substance abuse or general anxiety, Sibert said, adding that the homeless shelter has therapists and doctors to help provide support.
Getting people into a stable home situation also helps people deal with mental illness, Larrick said.
“So many mental illnesses are treated by medications, but its hard to stay on medications when you are on the street,” he said.
Ultimately, the goal of the homeless shelter is to help end homelessness by helping people get off the street and into homes, Sibert said. A-SPAN does this by providing case managers who follow each person throughout the process.
“[The shelter] is really a bridge so people don’t have to live on the street,” she said.
New Homeless Shelter to Open Next Month? — Months delayed, Arlington’s new year-round homeless shelter is getting closer to opening. The facility in Courthouse, located across the street from police headquarters, is now expected to open by late September or early October. [InsideNova]
Orange Line Delays Reported — Passengers are reporting delays of 10-20 minutes on the Orange Line this morning. Metro says inbound trains are indeed delayed from Vienna. No problems have been reported with Silver Line trains so far. [Twitter]
County Producing International Tourist Videos — Arlington County is working with the group Brand USA to produce tourism videos aimed at international visitors. Filming took place around various Arlington landmarks last month. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Mark White
Arlington’s new year-round homeless services center in Courthouse is still another 3-4 months away from completion.
On Saturday the Arlington County Board approved allocating an additional $140,000 to MTFA Architecture, which is providing administration services for the construction project.
County staff said the expenditure is necessary as “a direct result of the construction contractor’s inability to meet its contractual delivery date.”
The shelter was originally expected to be substantially complete by Feb. 27, with final completion 30 days after that.
Miller Brothers, Inc., the contractor, was awarded a $6.6 million contract in Feb. 2014 to convert two-and-a-half floors of offices space at 2020 14th Street N. into a comprehensive facility for serving the county’s homeless population.
The additional funds for the architecture firm will be at least partially offset by a $1,250 per day charge being assessed by the county against Miller Brothers. The county allocated $116,842 plus a $25,000 contingency for MTFA.
“Given the construction delays experienced to date on this project, an additional three (3) months of construction administration, site visits, and support services are anticipated,” according to the staff report. “The requested contingency amount allows for continuing the contractor’s services for another month should there be further construction delays.”
The County Board approved the allocation without public testimony as part of its Consent Agenda.
The new homeless services center will have up to 80 beds and will replace the county’s emergency winter shelter, located two blocks away in Courthouse.
Two months before its new, year-round homeless shelter is set to open, Arlington County released encouraging results from the annual count of its homeless population.
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.”
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.
New Homeless Shelter to Open in March — Arlington County’s new year-round homeless services center is now expected to open in March. That means the existing emergency winter homeless shelter in Courthouse is likely to be open much of the winter. [InsideNova]
Competitors Agree on Sign Change — Competing commercial real estate companies have joined together in support of a proposal for Arlington to allow rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office buildings, one already built and another set to be built if the signage is approved. Company officials say that Arlington’s reputation with the business community is at stake, especially at a time of increased competition with areas like Tysons Corner. [Washington Business Journal]
Silver Line Opening Date Set — The Silver Line is set to open to riders on July 26. A ride from Rosslyn to Tysons Corner will take about 22 minutes, while a ride from Rosslyn to Reston will take 34 minutes, according to Metro. [Reston Now, Twitter]
District Taco Expanding to Alexandria — District Taco, which started in Arlington as a tiny taco cart, has just signed a lease to open a new location at 701 S. Washington Street in Alexandria. When it opens, District Taco expects to reach a count of 200 employees. [Twitter]
Moran on Iraq Situation — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the current threat of invading Islamists in that country: “if you break it, you own it, and we broke it… we should have never gone into Iraq.” Moran said isolated air strikes might be warranted to help combat the jihadist militants. [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Arlington’s annual “point-in-time” homeless count, conducted once a year in January, reported a 39 percent overall drop in the homeless population since 2013.
The number of homeless individuals — adults without children on the street or in one of the county’s shelters — dropped from 268 to 178 from 2013 to this year, a 34 percent decrease, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which published the report.
The Arlington Department of Human Services coordinated the local study, and staff and volunteers with the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) performed the field work. The number of chronically homeless in Arlington fell 52 percent from the 2013 survey, from 156 to 74. The number of homeless families in Arlington also dropped 46 percent, but the county explained in its press release that some families who were counted as homeless in the study last year no longer fit the homeless criteria.
Arlington’s homelessness officials warn that, while the numbers are undoubtedly encouraging, observers shouldn’t give too much credence to a “point-in-time” count. The survey was conducted the night of Jan. 29 this year, when temperatures dipped down to 13 degrees overnight.
“Some people may be homeless and we may not be able to count them,” Jan-Michael Sacharko, director of development for A-SPAN told ARLnow.com. “We did find abandoned tents or places that used to be used for shelter. People might have rented a hotel room for the night or pooled resources with each other for shelter.”
The survey is conducted to comply with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s snapshot surveys. HUD changed their methodology this year, requiring localities to conduct the study overnight, where previously it was conducted from sunup to sundown, Sacharko said.
The COG’s report said the cold may have “depressed the unsheltered count,” but Sacharko doesn’t think the numbers should be disregarded entirely. To give an idea of just how harsh the winter was, Sacharko said the Emergency Winter Shelter opened for full days 30 times this winter, compared to just eight times in 2013.
“We don’t know the exact numbers, but we know we’ve reduced the [homeless] population,” he said. “There’s definitely been a reduction in the number. There are definitely more people getting into housing.”
In addition to A-SPAN’s volunteer efforts, Sacharko credited Arlington’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the 100 Homes Campaign, which places previously homeless individuals and families into permanent housing, for the reduction.
“The point-in-time count is one of several important indicators we use to gauge progress in the effort to prevent and end homelessness in our community,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release announcing the study. “There is still much work to do, but I commend the organizations and individuals who have played a role in this effort.”
Najarian Tries to Get on Ballot — Democratic candidate for Congress Nancy Najarian is trying to get on the ballot after authorities said she did not submit enough valid signatures to qualify. [Blue Virginia]
Winter Shelter Closes for the Season — Arlington’s emergency winter homeless shelter has closed for the season. More than 450 individuals stayed at least one night at the shelter over the past five months. The emergency winter shelter will reopen on Nov. 1. The county’s new year-round homeless shelter is not expected to open until some point next winter. [InsideNoVa]
Library Plans Bicycle Tour — Arlington Public Library’s seventh annual Tour des Bibliothèques is scheduled from the morning of Saturday, April 19. The event brings library staff and community members on a bicycle tour of seven Arlington library locations. [Arlington Public Library]
Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment — Arlington makes a significant investment in affordable housing compared to some of its neighbors. Arlington County devotes 5.2 percent of its budget to affordable housing, compared to 0.9 percent for Alexandria and 1.3 percent for Fairfax County. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
The argument was never really about whether or not Arlington would have a year-round homeless shelter. It always centered around whether or not to spend $2-3 million to retrofit the old shelter versus moving it to 2020 14th Street N. where neighbors did not want it, and spending considerably more than the retrofit would cost.
This week, the County Board approved the construction contract to begin the extensive work on the new location. The construction price tag is as much as $6.6 million. This is on top of $1.5 million in design and administrative costs, and over $750,000 for furnishings, security and IT equipment.
These are not the only costs that should be considered when looking at the shelter. The Board paid just over $27 million for the building in late 2012. Just two months later, it was assessed at just $21.4 million – which was an increase of nearly $3.5 million over the year before. For 2014, the assessment is up to $22.9 million.
Whether you think the Board paid 50 percent too much for the building based on the 2012 assessment, or just 26 percent too much based on the 2013 assessment, one thing is clear — the Board overpaid for the property. And, at nearly $36 million when all is said and done, the Board may have paid over 10 times more than a retrofit would have cost.
In the same week we hear from Arlington County staff that a big reason there are so many potholes is that the roads have not been properly maintained.
It is the same modus operandi I write about often in this space — our County Board is not ashamed about overspending on the big ticket items while pushing some of the basics to the back burner. Sometimes it makes you wonder if Arlington County means “spend indiscriminately” in Latin?
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
The Arlington County Board approved a $6.6 million contract yesterday to renovate two floors of a Courthouse office building to turn it into the long-planned and controversial Homeless Services Center at 2020 14th Street N.
The Board approved the contract 3-0 — Mary Hynes was absent with an illness and former Board Member Chris Zimmerman’s seat is vacant pending a special election — clearing what appears to be the final hurdle, other than the construction itself, before the homeless shelter is expected to open in early 2015.
The shelter will have 50 year-round beds, 25 winter beds and five medical beds. The construction will include building a separate entrance and elevator to separate the shelter from the rest of the tenants in the building, including the two ground-floor restaurants, which will remain open during construction.
The total cost estimate for the shelter project is $8.9 million, which includes $1.5 million in design, administration and county staff costs. The contract also includes a $1.1 million contingency, and the contract adds on to the county’s 2011 purchase of the building for $27.1 million. The shelter will be operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and will replace the Emergency Winter Shelter, just two blocks away.
When the plan to build the shelter was approved last spring, residents of the adjacent Woodbury Heights Condominiums expressed concern that the facility would be a security hazard. Last night, no neighbors spoke against the item, and only one speaker voiced opposition: former Green party County Board candidate Audrey Clement.
“I’m not opposed to a year-round homeless shelter,” Clement said. “What I’m objecting to is the county’s propensity to undertake projects without doing the cost-benefit analyses needed to get the best value for dollar spent.”
Board Chairman Jay Fisette said the shelter is an accomplishment for the community and will be something to take pride in.
“This should be a time for rejoicing, not complaining,” he said from the dais. “This is a terrific project. It has been in the works for, one might say, decades as this community came to terms with our responsibility to the homeless. We’ve always done a good job, and now we’re going to do an outstanding job.”