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WFCCA OKs Proposal For Family Shelter

Next stop for a proposed family shelter here is the county Planning Commission. It got a thumbs-up, last Tuesday, Nov. 18, from the West Fairfax County Citizens Association Land-Use Committee.

It was already endorsed by the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee. "We'll also bring this plan to the Sully District Council and share it with them," said Carey Needham, chief of the Building Design branch of the county's Department of Public Works.

The 20,000-square-foot shelter is proposed for construction between the Hampton Forest and Stringfellow Road intersections on Route 29, just west of Meadows Farms Nursery. It would house up to 20 families and predominantly serve single parents with children — mainly in elementary school or younger.

Nearly 80 homeless families are on the county's waiting list for shelter, all year 'round. And although there are homeless shelters in three other parts of the county, none exists in the western part where the need is just as significant.

The 5.7-acre site would have no direct access from Route 29. Instead, entry would be via the adjacent Estates of Fairfax subdivision, through a service-road stub. A modified traffic signal is planned for Hampton Forest Road.

THE SHELTER would be mostly two stories. Two transitional housing units — each 3,000 square feet and serving three families — would also have two floors. They'd have shingle roofs and siding with brick accents to fit in with nearby homes.

The proposal also includes some 50 parking spaces, an outdoor playground and a multi-use court. The shelter would have a maximum of 17 daytime staff members, plus four volunteers.

According to Needham, 30-70 percent of the shelter families will be employed, as well as about 75 percent in the transitional housing units. A Department of Family Services van or minibus shuttle is planned to take the residents to shopping areas or to other transportation to get to their jobs.

Project manager Magdi Imbabi, with the Public Works Department's Planning and Design Division, made last week's WFCCA presentation. Then he and Needham fielded questions from the panel.

"Where is the funding on this?" asked WFCCA's Carol Hawn. "It's $5 million for just the shelter, and we're essentially fully funded to build it," replied Needham. "One million is being taken from the Housing Trust Fund." Phase two — construction of the transitional housing units — would come later.

"Is this it, or is there room to expand?" asked WFCCA's Jim Hart. Answered Imbabi: "It's near a resource-protection area, so there's not much room to expand; this is it."

Hart made a motion to approve the shelter application, provided it has a "high-quality, architectural design compatible with the surrounding neighbors" and no access from Route 29. WFCCA also encouraged the county to make a commitment about the shuttle service and to save as many trees as possible. Approval was unanimous.