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Progress Made on Day Labor Site

Project Hope and Harmony moving forward with setting up temporary day-labor site.

Mukit Hossain, founding member of Project Hope & Harmony, said a lot of behind-the-scenes progress has been made toward finding a permanent day-labor site since the group's last meeting.

Hossain, a Loudoun County resident, said although the group — dedicated to finding a permanent day-labor site in Herndon — may not have an operating site yet to show for its work, little details that will lead to the creation of a site in town have been taken care of.

"We've been doing a lot of more preparatory things, things we can't get around," he said. "A lot of things have been happening very rapidly."

Since the Jan. 12 meeting Hossain said members of the group's three committees — site location, community outreach and social services — have worked at a "very healthy" pace to get a site up and running as soon as possible.

"At our next meeting we hope that we're going to have an application for a conditional-use permit and a logo to show for support," he said. "We will also be preparing for community discussion because we want to make sure the community is on board."

AT THE JANUARY meeting, in addition to formalizing the group by creating an executive board, a tentative timeline of objectives and the next step to take was also created.

Hossain said in the past three months the group has talked with neighborhood churches to gain additional support, learned what needs to be done to apply for a conditional-use permit for the soon to be vacated Herndon Police station, actively worked to procure funding for the creation of a site and met with town and county officials.

In addition, Ellen Kaminsky, membership chair Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce, said she hired a Realtor to look at various properties around town to locate potential sites.

"This is something that needs to be resolved, we have been looking for a [day-labor] site for 10 years now," said Kaminsky. "We need to solve this, we need to find a solution."

Through the Realtor, Kaminsky said they examined eight properties around town, of which some landlords said no, while others quoted high rent prices making it "clear they were discouraging" the site.

The original proposed site — Kohl's parking lot — was also reviewed.

Kaminsky said the proposal reached the corporate board in Wisconsin, where the company's lawyers advised against the site, saying if anyone were hurt on site, Kohl's corporate could potentially be held liable.

In addition, three of the properties were ruled out because of physical logistics and vacant private houses did not work because it "wasn't a smart decision for anyone" to place the high-traffic site in a residential neighborhood, according to Kaminsky.

That left the police station.

"It's absolutely a good solution," she said. "It's in an industrial location that's experiencing the kind of traffic load — large trucks because of the public works building — that a site could see, and it's not as visible."

Mayor Michael O'Reilly said after numerous meetings with Fairfax County officials, Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois has expressed support for the creation of a site in town.

"The county understands we need to do something," he said. "Our hope and our request in discussions with the county, is that the county adopt a countywide policy and then develop a program for Herndon."

O'Reilly said a November Town Council work session reflected the views that a majority of council members supported the police station to start.

But he added under the town's ordinance, it can only house a site temporarily.

"I imagine that this site could be operated for four to five years," he said. "The hope is once people see how it operates — that it is not irregular and that it operates smoothly and doesn't create tension or stress in the community — that others will volunteer their space for a permanent location."

The ultimate goal for the town, said O'Reilly, would be for the county to fund a permanent site while a group like Project Hope & Harmony operated it.

"The town was never in the business of operating a day-labor site," stressed O'Reilly. "We knew someone was going to have to operate it, and we knew it wasn't going to be us."

Heartened, but hardly surprised at the progress made by the group — because of the quality of leaders and dedicated citizens that comprise Project Hope & Harmony — O'Reilly said next additional community support is needed.

BY USING a professional Realtor, Kaminsky said she hopes residents see the effort that was made to explore every available option for a site.

"Our goal is to make sure when we bring this to the community, that they can embrace it wholeheartedly," she said. "We want to show them that we've truly done our homework."

Kerrie Wilson, CEO Reston Interfaith and Hope & Harmony board member, said at the April 6 meeting, members will be updated on the work completed in the last three months.

In addition members will discuss the next important step — community outreach — to gain the necessary support from Herndon residents.

"We need to make a serious drive to mobilize the community," said Hossain. "We want people to understand what is entailed in this."

He added that although still working on financial logistics and operational costs, members are exploring county, private institution and possible grant applications for funding — not tax payer money.

"This is a problem that needs our attention," he said. "We have a moral and civic obligation as residents to do this and I hope people will come out to help."

In addition he said the group is also exploring possible social services that could be offered on site.

"I would ask [citizens] recognize the site for what it truly is," said Kaminsky. "These men are citizens in our community and they are trying to find work, they are not criminals, they are neighbors."