The Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter is just about ready for prime time. Construction should be completed this Friday, with move-in of furniture and equipment to follow. The official ribbon-cutting, a reception and tours are set for Aug. 4 at 11 a.m.
AND MONDAY NIGHT, July 16, members of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) received a presentation about the new shelter during their quarterly meeting.
The $6.6 million facility is on 5.7 acres at 13000 Lee Highway in Fairfax, at the intersection of Meadow Estates Drive and Route 29, across from the Hampton Forest community. It's the fourth family shelter in the county, but the first in its western part.
Named after former Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, the 16,931-square-foot shelter will mainly serve single mothers with children, most elementary-school age and younger. And it's already receiving a warm reception, even prior to opening its doors.
"We've had an outpouring of support from different neighbors and members of the community," said Kathy Froyd, director of the Children, Youth and Families division of the county's Department of Family Services.
"Faith groups, Girl Scout troops and others have volunteered to provide services and materials for the families, as well as teach classes," she continued. "It's a wonderful tsunami of help, so we're eager to have the families there to offer them our support."
Mike Finkle, a management analyst with the Department of Family Services, said families are projected to begin moving into the shelter by the end of August. And Froyd said the nonprofit organization, Shelter House Inc., will run the day-to-day operations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Next, we're going to organize an advisory board to communicate with the surrounding communities and identify and develop needed resources for the families and children in the shelter," said Froyd. And several open houses will be held so neighbors may visit the shelter, meet its staff and families, observe its programs and learn about volunteer opportunities.
THE BUILDING itself is mostly two stories, with a residential appearance compatible with its neighborhood, and will house up to 20 families — 60 people total. The two-story wing contains 24 bedrooms. Four pod areas each have six bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The living room and central dining room face the back and the playground and outdoor sitting area. The part of the building that's 1 1/2 stories faces Route 29 and will be used for offices and classes upstairs. Said Finkle: "I think it's a very handsome, logical building."
Entry is via a service-road stub coming from the adjacent Estates of Fairfax subdivision. And there's a loop for cars, school buses and trucks, plus 42 parking spaces.
Fairfax County Human Services does the initial screening of families applying for the shelter. "Workers assess people's needs and, if there's no other place for them to go, they're added to the shelter list," said Finkle. "The goal is to have people move out of shelters in 60 days or so; we focus on rapid rehousing."
Froyd noted that an annual, Point-in-Time Survey found 1,083 people in families — most of them children — homeless on one night in Fairfax County. (She didn't know the exact date the survey was done). But she said the waiting list to enter the other three family shelters usually has 60-70 families on it.
Bull Run Civic Association President Judy Heisinger asked what percentage of people in the shelters are employed, and Froyd said it's usually about 40-50 percent.
"This is wonderful," said WFCCA President Ted Troscianecki. "But looking at the homeless numbers you've provided, it won't solve [the whole problem of homelessness in the county]."
"IT'S PART of the county's 10-year plan to end homelessness," replied Froyd. "We're looking at different models for the operation of this shelter. The goal is to get people out of the shelter, as soon as possible, so they can live with their families and then work on their issues. Families can make a lot more progress if they have a roof over their heads."
Finkle said one of the biggest strengths of Shelter House is "community after-care, for maybe up to six months" after families leave the shelter. "It really fits in with what the county wants to do — give them services afterward, instead of having a prolonged stay," he said.
Troscianecki asked if the faith community is helping, and Froyd said faith communities already play a big part by supporting families with financial and other assistance so they may stay in their own homes. "We're at the same table on this," she said.
WFCCA's Dorothy Steranka asked if food will be provided and prepared at the new shelter, and Finkle said it has a commercial kitchen, plus volunteer groups will also bring in food. "The shelter will provide three meals a day; one will be a take-with lunch," added Froyd. "And there's a microwave in each pod so they can make snacks."
Little Rocky Run's Pat Herrity asked if there's "a maximum amount of time" families are allowed to stay. "We won't put families out on the street," answered Froyd. "But the goal is to move them out within 60 days." However, added Finkle, "It's harder with large families."
Froyd also explained that new families go onto waiting lists. "There's no time that families can go immediately into a shelter," she said. "If it's an emergency, they're placed in motels."
AT-LARGE Planning Commissioner Jim Hart asked where the children will go to school and was told Eagle View Elementary, the school for that community. Although, said Froyd, shelter children "have the right to be bused to their original school, if they want."
Hart also asked about transportation for the families. Finkle said a bus stop is nearby on Route 29, and "We have vans to take people to doctors' appointments and employment."