Del. Tom Rust, members of religious organizations, Town Council members and area residents joined Monday to initiate a plan that will address and hopefully eliminate the town's ongoing day labor issues.
"The object of this meeting is to engage the community to resolve the Hispanic day labor issue," said Mukit Hossain a representative with Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help, or FAITH. "We need to discuss what we're all doing in that regard in the community and the resources we have here and walk away with a set of action plans to move forward."
Rust spoke to the group about the difficulty this issue presents the town because of the divide in community opinion to support or resist a permanent day labor site.
"This is not only a Herndon problem, this is a Northern Virginia problem and a nationwide problem," said Rust. "The most important thing is, this is a human issue, these are folks who want to work ... folks who are trying to support themselves and their families."
Rust listed six solutions he thinks the group, tentatively called A Mission of Hope and Humanity, could look into.
The first solution he offered was to use the resources the FAITH organization has because they differ from the resources town officials and the mayor are able to use due to legal restrictions. The second solution was to help the day labor site users, meaning help them find jobs so they have no use for a makeshift, or permanent, employment site. The third suggestion was to make sure to include the town in every step of the process. He noted that the group "clearly has the interest of the Town of Herndon, who has worked diligently but not been successful" in finding a solution to the problem. The fourth suggestion was to make sure the group works with Fairfax County because there are many other areas, such as Annandale and Bailey's Crossing that also have major day labor issues. Because they are engaged in other communities to solve this problem, Rust suggested communication would benefit the county and the town. The fifth suggestion was to make sure the federal government was contacted as well, because of legal issues concerning employment and making sure workers are able to get the proper identification. The final suggestion was to work with the contractors who are picking up the day laborers and other users and "educate them on what they can and can't do in fairness to those being picked up."
"The ultimate goal would be that there is no need for a site," said Rust.
Many members in attendance had participated on previous committees geared toward remedying the day laborer site issues, including council member Harlon Reece.
Reece said he came to this initial meeting to offer his input and inform the group about what did and did not work in the past, although he added that as the group further develops he will not be able to participate because they eventually could come before council with a proposed day labor site.
"Being an optimistic person, I thought we'd be well on our way to fixing this problem," said Reece to the group. "When you've been around as long as I have, you see that sometimes better is an enemy of good enough."
By the end of the meeting the group decided to create three committees to take on the next stages of this plan.
Hossain said the three committees will address community issues, address the logistics of finding a site and the issues that will arise with that, and a committee to address the services that will be offered whenever that site is finally developed.
"I would very much like to keep this open to the public," said Hossain of future meetings. "I invite everyone and anyone to come, we have to make this an effort that involves the community."
The group is currently called a Mission of Hope and Harmony and the three committees have tentatively planned to meet again next week, although the date has yet to be determined. Hossain said those interested in joining a committee, attending a meeting or who would like to be added to the electronic list that will distribute information can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.