Commentary: Sometimes Perception Really Isn’t Reality

Commentary: Sometimes Perception Really Isn’t Reality

Fairfax County is home to one of the wealthiest populations in the country. Unbeknownst to many, the county is also home to the second largest population of homelessness in this region. In fact, more than 1,200 residents of Fairfax County are without stable and safe homes.



Homelessness in Fairfax County is a real problem and many cannot fathom an issue of this nature plaguing their community. There is a need for greater understanding of homelessness in Fairfax County. Some myths must be dispelled, especially if we want to end these cycles.

Homeless doesn’t mean jobless. The 2014 Point in Time Data for Fairfax County states 59 percent of homeless adults in families are employed.

Additionally, the American Payroll Association states more than two thirds of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Shelter House is working to cure the epidemic of homelessness in our community. There are differing opinions on how to treat the symptoms, but Shelter House knows the most effective cure for homelessness is prevention. It requires an understanding of the root causes and a compassionate approach. Programs like Housing First and Rapid Rehousing have proven most effective with the clients.

It is clear the emergency shelter system can only accommodate a small fraction of the growing number of homeless families. Many are forced to live in places unsafe or unsuitable for human habitation. Others move place to place with children, staying intermittently with others. Emergency shelters cannot provide intensive long-term assistance necessary to stabilize lives. While transitional housing provides assistance, families respond better to service interventions from a stable, permanent housing base. Thus the reason HUD’s Housing First is a viable option.

Shelter House is also finding success in HUD’s Rapid Rehousing Program. The program targets those who would find themselves homeless if not for the assistance. Financial assistance and supportive services are provided to prevent individuals and families from ever becoming homeless.

Families don’t wish to be homeless. Many aren’t interested in handouts, just a hand up. Accountability for a portion of their rent can help to build them up after being torn down by the weight of their world. Case management, financial literacy classes, and credit counseling gets them back on track. They are challenged and supported in developing realistic plans they can implement and see through. There’s dignity in the ability to support your family in your own home. This program gives them that dignity. HUD reported 83 percent were still stably housed after two years.

People who are homeless are not a nuisance. We are all part of a community. If we work to change our perception, we can change their reality.

If you want to be part of the solution in ending homelessness in your community please visit