Fairfax County wants to make affordable housing easier for people with serious mental illness

Fairfax County has 18 permanent supportive housing units at its emergency shelter in Bailey’s Crossroads (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County is taking steps to make affordable housing more accessible to people dealing with serious mental illness.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) will implement a major increase in rental assistance for people with serious mental illness, thanks to a $20 million agreement approved earlier this month with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS).

“The additional funding is expected to help prevent homelessness among individuals with serious mental illness, as well as reduce census at state psychiatric hospitals,” the FCRHA announced on March 15 reads.

Starting in May, the approved agreement will fund 300 new supportive rental assistance vouchers for Fairfax County residents over three years and three new staff positions to manage the program.

“The new Fairfax County program supports an identified need for permanent supportive housing as noted in the Fairfax County Countywide Strategic Plan,” FCRHA spokesperson Allyson Pearce told FFXnow, adding that funding needs will be evaluated over time.

Details on how the 300 recipients will be chosen are still coming together, Pearce said, but the program will prioritize:

  • Individuals experiencing long-term or repeated episodes of homelessness
  • Individuals and those whose housing instability frequently leads to crisis, hospital visits, or contact with criminal justice systems
  • Individuals leaving state psychiatric hospitals
  • People residing in congregate care settings with a high concentration of individuals with serious mental illness

The Fairfax County Community Services Board (CSB) will coordinate referrals from “various stakeholders,” such as state hospitals and the federal Continuum of Care program, according to the FCRHA release.

A separate partnership with the nonprofit Pathways Homes will allow the 300 participants to receive additional supportive services. Fifty of the participants will also have access to services like psychiatry and case management as well as funds for the expenses needed to lease a housing unit.

“The remaining 250 participants will be coupled with two Supportive Housing Teams under a separate contract,” the release states.

Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development Director Tom Fleetwood said in the release that increasing access to affordable housing reduces homelessness, and is essential in getting a person back on their feet.

“That is why this funding is so important,” Fleetwood said. “It provides critical support services along with rental assistance needed for people to be successful in their new home.”

Photo via Fairfax County

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