The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger designate the week before Thanksgiving as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. And while you might think that’s not really needed here in one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, you would be wrong.
At Oct. 10’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, John W. Foust (Dranesville) along with with Chairman Jeff McKay, Supervisor Dalia Palchik (Providence), and Supervisor Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill reminded county residents of the upcoming Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
“As we approach Thanksgiving and other winter holidays, many families around Fairfax County and across the country will gather and celebrate with their loved ones. Unfortunately, there are those who will not be able to share the pleasures of this joyful season due to the realities of food insecurity and homelessness,” Foust said. He added that despite significant efforts by the county and numerous nonprofits and faith-based organizations, many county residents do not have adequate food resources.
Foust cited numbers by Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States, which has produced estimates for Fairfax County. Their map, the Meal Gap Report, estimated that in 2021, over 60,000 people in the Fairfax County faced food insecurity.
Similarly, according to Foust, Fairfax County has not avoided the humanitarian challenges caused by homelessness every year. The Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness partners with several nonprofits to conduct a Point-in-Time Count of those experiencing homelessness throughout the county.
The January 2023 count reported a 10 percent increase in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness compared to the past year. “An extremely distressing finding of that was the count showed that the number of people and families with children experiencing homelessness increased by 33 percent,” Foust said.
Helping community members in greatest need of food and housing assistance necessitates a comprehensive and compassionate approach involving collaboration between government agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and individual community members.
“We're fortunate to live in a county that cares. The more we are aware of the challenges of food insecurity and homelessness, the more likely we are to come together to address how we solve those challenges,” Foust said.
The Board approved Foust's motion to have staff prepare a proclamation declaring the week of Nov. 11 to 18 Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in Fairfax County, to be presented at the board's October 24 meeting. County employees and community members who work to address the issues of hunger and homelessness in Fairfax County wereencouraged to attend the presentation..
Families Overflow Local Shelter in Fairfax County
The Embry Rucker Community Shelter, a residential shelter with 70 beds in Reston, continues to see an increase in the number of families referred to Cornerstones for assistance. From January 2023 to September 2023, according to Maura Williams, vice president of Housing and Community Services at Cornerstones, there has been a 21 percent increase. “We currently have 24 families in overflow shelter situations, meaning we’ve had to locate them somewhere else outside of the Embry Rucker Shelter.”
To give to Cornerstones, visit https://www.cornerstonesva.org/ways-to-give/?form=Donation