For approximately 10 years the Town of Herndon has held discussions regarding the town's day labor population. Previous conversations have touched on the creation of a formal day worker pick up site in town, although no action has been taken until now.
Currently residents looking for work unofficially gather at the 7-Eleven on the corner of Alabama Drive and Elden Street in Herndon. Neighbors of the unofficial site have complained about trespassing, litter and safety issues with the site. Others have expressed concerns about entering the parking lot for fear workers will come up to their car seeking work.
In September 2004 a group called Project Hope and Harmony formed to find and act on a solution to the current situation. Comprised of anyone interested in working toward a solution for the site, the group is made up of faith-based representatives, concerned community members and non-profit organizations. Since its inception the group has held numerous public meetings for members of the community, including day laborers, to brainstorm ways to alleviate the issues related to the unofficial site.
After hiring a professional Realtor to examine potential sites in town, including the Kohl's parking lot, residential neighborhoods, churches and office spaces, the Herndon Police station was determined to be the best location for the site.
Because the building will be vacated by the end of summer, once the police move into a new station, Project Hope and Harmony recently submitted an application to the town's Planning Commission to use a portion of the station for a formal pick up site.
Next to the town's Department of Publics Works building, the site is already set up to allow for large trucks to easily enter and exit the parking lot. According to the group's application, an existing trailer on location will serve as the building for the site, while a toll booth will be installed for a site manager to regulate the site. The manager will also help workers find work within their specialty areas. For workers who do not find work, social workers will be on hand to teach English.
Hope and Harmony members have been meeting regularly with day laborers to discuss their needs. Along with expressing a desire to work and become respected members of the community, Hope and Harmony members said day laborers are creating site rules and regulations to assist in the site's success. Many workers have expressed concerns about the current site, saying they would like to get work from a formalized location.
In April the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors reviewed an internal proposal by Anthony Griffin, county executive, to allocate $400,000 of existing fiscal year appropriations to day-labor sites.
After many meetings between town and county officials, Mayor Michael O'Reilly said it was decided Herndon would be allocated a portion of the funding. In a memorandum, Griffin stated the allocation would be to "develop and implement an initial 12-month safety and self-management strategy for existing informal day-laborer sites" in the county.
Initially funded by Fairfax County, additional funding will be sought by Project Hope and Harmony through philanthropic efforts and grants. The Town of Herndon will not fund any portion of the site.
Because the Herndon police station is built half in Herndon and half in Loudoun County, meetings have been held between town and county officials and Loudoun County supervisors to discuss the proposal. Project Hope and Harmony members have also met with residents near the police station to answer questions.
Although under review by the Planning Commission, the site application will not be up for official vote until a scheduled Aug. 1 public hearing. Members of the public can attend and speak at the upcoming meeting, held in Town Council Chambers at 765 Lynn Street. Members of the community are given three minutes to speak.
<1b>— Brynn Grimley