County staff are exploring ways to curb panhandling by prohibiting pedestrians from engaging with cars on medians or intersections. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff to create a draft ordinance that would limit curb to curb interactions between drivers and pedestrians on Tuesday (July 16).
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook proposed the board matter in response to reports of increased panhandling in the last two years, including several areas in Reston.
In 2017, the Fairfax County Police Department received more than 2,100 calls related to panhandling, including issues related to safety, fear of suspicious people and traffic issues.
“It is unsafe and detracts from our neighborhoods,” Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, the proposal’s co-sponsor, said in a news release. “We have good programs in this county and many nonprofit groups who help the homeless, and that is a better way to help.”
Here’s more from the proposal by Herrity and Cook:
In the past two years, there has been a noticeable increase in panhandling on medians and intersections throughout the County. While there are some who panhandle because they need to, many more take advantage of the generosity of our residents through panhandling rings. Investigation into these rings has proven that many panhandlers in our County are coming from outside the County and even outside of the state, attracted by the wealth and generosity of our residents.
The Board has sought to help those panhandlers in need by committing a significant portion of the County budget to providing services for those residents who are down on their luck. The Board has encouraged residents to direct panhandlers to these County resources including shelters, food banks, health and job matching services, instead of giving small amounts of money. It is vitally important that we connect those in need with the right services and disincentivize panhandling.
Asking for money is a protected First Amendment right. In public areas, seeking money does not violate any laws.
FCPD encourages residents to report concerns about panhandlers who may have committed traffic offenses or be in involved in criminal activity to police.
The board will consider the proposal at the Public Safety Committee’s meeting on Sept. 17.
It’s unclear how the proposed policy will maintain protected speech.
To what extent do you think panhandling is a problem in Reston and Herndon? Let us know in the comments below.
It’s been 50 years since Herndon-Reston FISH began helping Herndon and Reston residents in short-term financial crisis.
The organization, which has an acronym stands for friendly, instant sympathetic help, will celebrate its past successes and preview plans for the future at a public meeting on Monday, July 15.
The meeting takes from at Dominion Energy Offices, which are located at 3072 Centreville Road), from noon to 2 p.m.
Attendees will get the change to meet the organization’s new executive director, Mary Saunders. Local high school students will offer entertainment and light refreshments will also be provided.
HRFISH was founded in 1969 to provide emergency financial assistance to residents, including rent, critical dental care and medical prescriptions.
Short-term assistance “averts evictions that could lead to homelessness, prevents health problems from escalating, keeps the electricity on and the water running, and helps to ensure our neighbors’ well-being and stability are preserved,” according to the organization.
Photo via Herndon-Reston FISH/Facebook
(Updated 4:50 p.m.) As it starts to get colder, some veterans and families around the region don’t have a home to take shelter in.
The Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant in the Reston Town Center is collecting unused, or gently used, sweaters and sweat pants as part of a “Sweats 4 Vets” program.
“We do have a homeless problem in Reston,” said Joe Becker, general manager at Not Your Average Joe’s. “It’s not front page news, but if you look around it’s there.”
Becker said the collection is a partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union.
“Every fall, going into winter, we collect [sweat-clothes] for veterans,” said Becker. “We have hypothermia shelters in the area that we get these clothes out to.”
The collection is starting to fill up, and Becker’s goal is to have it overflowing. Normally the clothing is collected at the beginning of December, but Becker said the weather made him want to keep collecting for a few more weeks to get more sweat-clothes.
“It’s halfway full, so it’s getting up there,” said Robert DeSilva, a manager at Not Your Average Joe’s. “We prefer new items, but we will take slightly used [sweat-clothes] in all sizes and cuts.”
DeSilva said the collection will continue for two more weeks before the clothing is donated to local shelters.
“There’s plenty of veterans on hard times right now,” DeSilva said. “We need to take care of those who have taken care of us.”
Photo via Not Your Average Joe’s
Home share, a nationwide housing program, is offered in just 16 states, according to the National Shared Housing Resource Center. The program, which allows individuals to exchange housing for help in the home, is coming to Fairfax County soon.
GraceFul Homeshare, a family-owned organization that offers in-home care for seniors and older adults with disabilities, is in the process of establishing a home share program for Herndon and Reston. The organization is currently seeking homeowners interested in participating, tenants and volunteers.
The system allows homeowners to offer accommodation to a homesharer who agreed to provide money and/or help with household tasks in exchange for housing. Advocates say home sharing is an efficient use of existing housing stock, helps preserve the fabric of the neighborhood and lessen the need for care services and long term institutional care.
Examples of homesharers include senior citizens, people with disabilities, working professional and individuals at risk of homelessness.
Interviews and background checks will take place before introductions are arranged. Each part will pay an application fee. If the application is accepted and a match is made, the homework will pay a fee for the service.
For more information about the program, email Dan Flavin at [email protected] for more information. GraceFul serves Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties in Virginia, Maryland’s Montgomery County and surrounding areas.
Beginning this month, all three of Fairfax County’s emergency centers that serve single adults instituted a “no turn-away policy.” Through March 31, the North County Human Services Building on 1850 Cameron Glen Drive will be open to individuals through the hypothermia prevention program.
Additional sleeping space will also be available at the Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter, a 70-bed residential shelter, throughout the winter season. Services include hot dinner, breakfast, bagged lunches, showers, laundry, bus tokens and basic self-care supplies.
On Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m., the organization will also provide employment services at the main shelter. The shelter, which opened in 1987, has 42 beds for families, 28 beds for unaccompanied adults and 10 beds for cold weather overflow.
If an unsheltered individual is seen at night who may be at risk of hypothermia, the Fairfax County non-emergency phone line accepts calls at 703-691-2131. Emergency personnel will determine the shelter most suitable for the individual as needed.
To volunteer or donate, please contact Susan Alger at [email protected].
Fog Advisory in Effect Through Morning — A dense fog advisory that has been in effect for the area since early this morning has been extended until noon. Visibility of a quarter-mile or less remains possible in spots. [National Weather Service]
County Conducting Homelessness Survey — Fairfax County’s Office of Public Affairs and Office to Prevent and End Homelessness are collaborating with George Mason University communications students to collect data about the perception of homelessness in the county. Citizen feedback is requested by April 8. [Fairfax County/Survey Monkey]
Local Artist Featured in DC Show — J’han, an artist from Herndon, will be featured in the “Pancakes and Booze” art show at Penn Station (801 E St. NW) on April 6. J’han is an expressionist, surrealist and abstract artist. [Facebook]
More Taking the Toll Road So Far in 2017 — The Dulles Toll Road collected $23 million in tolls in January and February. That number is up from the collected totals in 2015 and 2016. The number of trips on the road in January and February was about 3.6 percent more than predicted. [WTOP]
Coffee Shop Hopes to Be Up and Running Soon — Roasting operations at Weird Brothers Coffee (321 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon) are underway, and they hope to be serving espresso, nitro cold brew, blended chillers, fruit smoothies and more soon. [Weird Brothers Coffee]
HHS Grad Has Sights Set on World Championships Run — Hiruni Wijayaratne, a 2009 Herndon High School graduate, is training hard in the attempt to qualify to represent her native Sri Lanka as a marathon runner in the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships. [Sunday Times in Sri Lanka]
Fairfax County’s population of homeless people has decreased significantly since 2008, according to the county’s latest Point in Time Count.
The Point in Time Count is an annual survey where county personnel take to the streets, the woods and other areas to determine who is homeless.
The Point in Time was conducted this year on Jan. 28 — just a few days after the big blizzard.
Officials found 145 fewer people who are experiencing homelessness than it did in 2015. There were 1,059 people who were literally homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church community: 577 were people in families, 482 of them were single adults.
It also found that there were 772 fewer people who are homeless than there were in 2008 — a decrease of 42 percent, says Dean Klein, Director of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
“It is so exciting to see our nonprofits,the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and other county, faith organizations and businesses working effectively to end homelessness,” said Klein. “It is especially encouraging to see reductions of persons who are literally homeless in many areas. This means our innovative strategies are working and that when we work together we can end homelessness in our community.”
Klein said several factors have contributed to the decline. Among them: a countywide emphasis on homelessness prevention and housing availability, as well as an unified approach to homeless services with the nonprofits and community partners.
The Point in Time report also shows there is still work to be done. The survey found an increase in older people who are homeless as well as a significant amount of single adults who are homeless:
- Increase in Older Homeless Population: 139 single adults were over 55 years old in 2016; 123 were counted in 2015.
- Significant Amount of Homeless Single Adults: Even after a slight decline this year there were still 482 homeless single adults.
The survey found 179 families who are homeless. That includes more than 22 children under age 11. See a detailed demographic chart on Fairfax County’s website.
The county says the primary reduction in numbers from 2015 to 2016 was in families in emergency shelters. There were 95 families in 2015 and 64 in 2016, representing a change of 106 individuals. There was a 33-percent decline in the number of families in emergency shelter. Shelter capacity was decreased, there were no families in motels used as overflow on the night of the count, and there were vacancies in emergency shelters, both mainstream and domestic violence shelters.
The county did not release a breakdown by geographic location.
If you see a mannequin holding a “Do You See Me?” sign in Reston, think about how you would feel if it were a real person on the street or under a bridge.
That’s the message the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness is trying to get across with its 2015 We Can End Homelessness campaign, which will kick off at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Fairfax County is participating in the Mannequin Project, an effort designed to raise awareness that homelessness does exist in Fairfax, one of the nation’s wealthiest counties.
Beginning Tuesday and running through June, a series of mannequins will be on display in locations throughout the county, representing the faces of homelessness that exist in real life in our area, says Dean Klein, Director of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
The mannequins will hold placards asking residents “Do You Know Me? Can You See Me?” and will depict people of all ages and backgrounds, and further descriptions on the project website explain each mannequins “story,” which is fairly typical of how homelessness can happen to many people, especially children.
“This exciting awareness campaign is intended to bring more attention to the issues facing homeless women, men and children in our community who are homeless,” Klein said. “We hope that by raising awareness we will be able to build even more momentum in preventing and ending homelessness in our community by engaging new stakeholders and by raising more resources.”
About 1,200 people in Fairfax County are considered homeless, said Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.
“The Mannequin Project is a creative way to bring attention to our homeless population in Fairfax County,” says Bulova. “The Mannequin Project tells us about our homeless neighbors. Each mannequin has a story that may challenge your views on why people are homeless, and what we can do to help.”
Photo: A “Do You See Me?” mannequin/Credit: Fairfax County
In late December, Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova and the county joined the Mayors Challenge.
The Mayors Challenge is an effort of First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National League of Cities.
The Mayors Challenge calls for mayors (and other jurisdiction leaders) to make a commitment to ending veteran homelessness in their communities in 2015.
Bulova said that honoring and taking care of veterans is “one of the most important things we can do as a nation, and Fairfax County will certainly do our part in making this goal a reality.”
“I am honored to partner with the Obama administration, nonprofit organizations, neighboring jurisdictions and the private sector to end veteran homelessness in the United States by the end of 2015,” she said.
During the 2014 Point-in-Time Count of homeless persons in Fairfax County, 8 percent of all single adults who were homeless (45 individuals) identified themselves as veterans. Additionally, the 2014 count found six veterans living in families with children.
Nationally, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by about 33 percent since Opening Doors launched in 2010, the county says.
The Mayors Challenge is part of the federal Opening Doors initiative to end homelessness. As outlined by the program, ending veteran homelessness means reaching the point where there are no veterans sleeping on the streets and every veteran has access to permanent housing.
Also, the initiative will work to provide systems so that should veterans become homeless or be at-risk of becoming homeless, communities will have the capacity to quickly connect them to the help they need to achieve housing stability.
During the 2014 Point-in-Time Count on Jan. 29, 2014, there were 1,225 people who were homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church community. This represents a 9 percent reduction from the number counted in January 2013, or 125 fewer people.
Since 2008, the county has decreased the homeless population 33 percent. Adoption of housing first and rapid rehousing models, heightened prevention efforts, prioritizing housing for the longest and most vulnerable homeless through the 100,000 Homes campaign, additional VASH vouchers, dedication of new housing options to the chronically homeless, and the opening of Mondloch Place have assisted in this significant reduction, Fairfax County officials said.
Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and family spent part of Thanksgiving Day serving breakfast at Reston’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter.
“Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, wife Dorothy and children were there to learn firsthand about the daily challenges of people who are homeless– and the work of the many extraordinary nonprofits and Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness in finding solutions,” said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Cornerstones, the local nonprofit that operates the shelter.
“These are hard times for many in our community, but every day we see people willing to come together and offer a hand,” she said. “Volunteering is not something new for the McAuliffe family, but it was a generous gift that reflects the importance of these issues and gave hope to those under our roof.”
McAuliffe will be sworn in in January.
Wilson also said she commends outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell for his work helping the homeless. McDonnell was the first sitting Governor in Virginia to establish a committee on affordable housing and homelessness, she notes.
“While not all of these recommendations were funded, much of the policy/strategy level work has been implemented through some of the priority setting and state level contracting for homeless services, a Virginia Housing Trust Fund was established and some initial seed funding from the mortgage settlement provided a start (it needs real funding),” Wilson said. “I hope that among the many areas that Governor-elect McAuliffe and his family will embrace – as they discussed on the campaign trail – hunger/food insecurity, mental health, homeless/workforce housing – can build on these efforts.”
Photos courtesy of Cornerstones.