Editorial: Homelessness on Its Way Out in Fairfax

Editorial: Homelessness on Its Way Out in Fairfax

Homelessness should be rare, brief and non-recurring; 776 fewer homeless individuals in 2016 than in 2008.

Homelessness is down in Fairfax County in every major category, a fact confirmed on Jan. 28, 2016, the annual Point in Time Count.

There were 145 fewer individuals homeless than the Point In Time Count a year earlier, 138 of those in families, and seven fewer homeless individuals. There also were no families in overflow motels, and no families were unsheltered in the 2016 count.

Sixty-four percent of the 577 family members who were literally homeless on Jan. 28, 2016 were in transitional housing, with the rest in emergency shelter. There were vacancies in emergency shelters for families and in domestic violence shelters; no families were unsheltered.

“This trend is beautiful,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “The things we’re doing are making a difference.”

In 2008, the Fairfax County established the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness with a plan to end homelessness within 10 years.

“Seeing the numbers decrease in so many different areas is encouraging after working on the 10 year plan,” said Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. Since 2008, the number of people who are literally homeless on the day of the Point in Time Count has decreased by 776 individuals. “Since 2008 there has been a 42 percent reduction in the number of people counted as homeless, from 1,835 people in 2008 to 1,059 in 2016,” Klein reported to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, March 14.

Julie Maltzman, manager of Continuum of Care, reported the details to the Governing Board of the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness on Monday afternoon.

A coordinated effort among partners, more housing options and flexible funding helped to get formerly homeless families into more viable housing with appropriate services, said Joe Meyer, executive director of Shelter House. More public awareness around homelessness is also making a difference, Meyer said.

Still, 341 children under the age of 18 were among those literally homeless in this year’s Point in Time Count, 32 percent of all homeless.

Eighty percent (190 people) of the adults in homeless families were female; 66 percent of adults (155) in homeless families were employed; a slight increase from 62 percent in 2015. Twelve percent (21) of families were considered “youth households,” with all family members under 25 years old.

Single adults made up 46 percent of all homeless people counted, a total of 482. Forty-two percent (202 people) of single adults who were homeless suffered from serious mental illness and/or substance abuse, a 13 percent decrease from last year. Many had chronic health problems and/or physical disabilities as well.

Thirty percent (146 people) were experiencing chronic homelessness. This is a significant decrease from last year when 42 percent (203 people) were experiencing chronic homelessness.

Among the factors helping to reduce homelessness, Maltzman said: the adoption of a Housing First approach; increased homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing efforts; prioritizing housing for individuals with the longest history of homelessness and highest vulnerability; additional permanent supportive housing for singles experiencing chronic homelessness; focus on housing veterans including use of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers; new permanent housing opportunities for families with children.

To find out more, see http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/homeless/

Support the effort to end homelessness by contributing to the Build a Village campaign found there as well.

Support the nonprofit partners working to end homelessness, including FACETS, Cornerstones, New Hope Housing, Northern Virginia Family Services, Shelter House, United Community Ministries, Good Shepherd Housing, Alternative House, Homestretch, Pathways Homes and others.

Mary Kimm is a member of the Governing Board of the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness.