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New Family Shelter Is Right on Track

Scheduled to open in early August.

In spring 2002, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided a family shelter in western Fairfax County would be one of its priorities. And now, five years later, that shelter is just three months from opening its doors.

"THIS IS RIGHT on schedule — it's great," said Kathy Froyd, director of the Children, Youth and Families division of the county's Department of Family Services. "We're anticipating substantial completion of the building by the end of May."

She gave a presentation May 2 to the Springfield District Council, Western Fairfax area, updating members of several homeowners associations on the shelter's progress. The $6.6 million facility is being built on 5.7 acres at 13000 Lee Highway.

It's just west of Meadows Farms Nursery in Centreville, between the Hampton Forest and Stringfellow Road intersections on Route 29. And although it will be the fourth family shelter in the county, it's the first in its western part.

Named after former Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter will mainly serve single mothers with children, most elementary-school age and younger.

Froyd said 60-70 families — a total of 180-200 people — are on the waiting list for a county shelter, at all times. And there's a 60- to 90-day wait so, she said, "We're certainly hoping to impact that with this new shelter."

THE STAYS will be temporary — 30-60 days, depending on the circumstances. But, said Froyd, "The goal will be to focus on where they're going next, and housing is a priority."

She said the new shelter is "really being opened as part of the county's strategies to end homelessness. You can do a quick stabilization of families and then move them into a suitable housing option, as soon as possible."

But even then, said Froyd, "They'll continue to receive the support they need to access the necessary community services to help them become more self-sufficient and remain in their new housing."

The 16,931-square-foot Hanley shelter will be mostly two stories, with a residential appearance compatible with its neighborhood. It's planned to house up to 20 families — 60 people total.

The two-story wing will contain bedrooms, with two per floor. The living room and dining room will face the back and the playground and outdoor sitting area. The part of the building that's 1 1/2 stories will face Route 29 and will be used for offices and classes upstairs.

Entry will be via a service-road stub coming from the adjacent Estates of Fairfax subdivision. And there'll be a loop for cars, school buses and trucks, plus 42 parking spaces.

"We're working on getting a vendor on board to oversee the operation of the shelter," said Froyd on Monday. "One should be chosen in the next couple weeks."

The ribbon-cutting is slated for Aug. 4, and Froyd anticipates families starting to move in "by late August/early September." A Shelter Advisory Board of about a dozen members will also be established.

"We really want to engage the neighborhood organizations, faith community and area businesses [in what goes on at the shelter]," said Froyd. "And we hope to have that in place by the time the shelter opens. We also plan to hold open houses so people can see the shelter and how it's run."

Adults staying there will be expected to go to work or prepare for and seek employment. Children will attend local schools or be in day care. Transportation will be provided, and clients will receive case management, job training and other social services.

ALREADY LENDING a hand is the Junior League of Northern Virginia, which is creating the Katherine Hanley Resource Center within the shelter. It consists of three rooms — one for adults, one for children and one used for training, tutoring, studying and meeting.

"Through grants it received, the Junior League is fully furnishing these rooms, which is wonderful," said Froyd. "It's a great partner, and we really appreciate it."

Also part of the shelter project is a pair of two-story, transitional housing units — each 3,000 square feet and serving three families. Now fully funded, these facilities are currently in the design phase and will be built behind the shelter.

Said Froyd: "The county Housing and Community Development Department is overseeing their construction, and the Department of Family Services is overseeing their program development."

As of Jan. 25, Fairfax County had 1,813 homeless people; 60 percent of them are in families and 674 are children. These figures are according to a "point-in-time" survey done by the Fairfax/Falls Church Continuum of Care group, composed of county, nonprofit and faith-based members. Some 40 percent of these adults are employed, and 61 percent of those 18 and above in families are employed.

Seeing the potential to help these people get on their feet, Froyd said her department is "very pleased" that the Hanley Shelter is moving rapidly toward completion. "This has been an effort that's been underway since the Board put forth this request, about five years ago," she said. However, added Froyd, the shelter is just one component of the ongoing quest to end homelessness in this county.

Once they leave the shelter, she said, "We're going to work with families on innovative ways to get them into appropriate housing as soon as possible, with the support and services they need." After all, said Froyd, "That's a much better way for families to live than in a shelter."

For more information, call Froyd at 703-324-7322 or e-mail her at Kathy.Froyd@fairfaxcounty.gov; or call Mike Finkle at 703-324-7127 or e-mail him at Mike.Finkle @fairfaxcounty.gov.