Fairfax: Fighting Poverty, One Story at a Time

Fairfax: Fighting Poverty, One Story at a Time

Formerly homeless Leroy told the audience about how FACETS helped him begin recovery and find a home.

Formerly homeless Leroy told the audience about how FACETS helped him begin recovery and find a home. Photos by Reem Nadeem/The Connection

When Leroy became homeless because of his addiction, he slept in cars and old buildings.

“I gave up on life during this time, I didn’t think anyone cared about me,” Leroy said to a group of FACETS volunteers, local politicians and community residents at a FACETS breakfast.

The “Opening Doors” breakfast took place April 14, and brought together hundreds of community members to hear the success stories of FACETS clients, and to learn about those affected by poverty in Fairfax.

FACETS is a nonprofit that provides aid to struggling community members in a variety of ways. In addition to helping the homeless find affordable housing, FACETS also provides hypothermia prevention and response, as well as educational programs for youth and adults.

According to FACETS worker Amanda Perry, homelessness in Fairfax is caused by a variety of issues.


Hundreds of community residents, politicians and volunteers listened to the stories of FACETS clients during the "Opening Doors" breakfast on April 14.

“There is a bigger underlying issue, I think, of just the high poverty level here and the high cost of living. So I think that probably contributes a little bit to the homelessness. It’s impossible to have an apartment or a house in this area making minimum wage, which is unfortunately what we see a lot of our households making,” Perry said.

As of January 2016, 1059 people were homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church area, according to Fairfax County Government’s Point in Time, which monitors and reports on community homelessness annually -- 482 single adults and 577 people in families with children make up the most recent total.

Of the 482 single adults experiencing homelessness, 202 suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse, 146 were experiencing chronic homelessness, 37 were veterans and 134 were employed.

Despite the prevalence of homelessness in the area, many residents remain unaware of the extent of the issue. FACETS volunteer and Fairfax native Sarah Foote was one of many residents unaware of the issue, until she researched the topic and volunteered with FACETS.

“I feel like many people assume because the median income in Fairfax County is so high that it’s not a problem, it actually makes it that much worse of a problem for everyone who is below that level, because it’s that much harder to make ends meet,” Foote said.

Although Fairfax County is still battling homelessness, the number of homeless people in 2016 has declined by 12 percent since 2015. Local resident Valerie Allen has attended FACETS events for years and supports the effort to eradicate homelessness in the community.

“I’m here today because I believe in the cause,” Allen said. “They help with homelessness, I’ve been coming to these events for many years now and it’s just growing larger and larger, and I think they’re doing awesome work in the area. That’s why I’m here, I want to support them.”

CHAKA MENEY is a single adult case manager with FACETS. Her responsibilities include working one on one with FACETS clients. Meney worked with formerly homeless Leroy, who spoke at the breakfast about his experience.

“I get to witness that emotion when they open the doors to their home, it can be overpowering and just so wonderful at the same time,” Meney said. “And sometimes the clients, they’ll cry or they’ll give me a hug and say ‘Thank you.’ They just never thought or imagined that they would have that home.”