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Monday, April 18, 2016

For the homeless, the Bailey's Shelter is a stepping stone to a better life

Dana Guthrie (left) and David Marmoll are staying at the Bailey's Crossroads Community Shelter.
None of the residents of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter encountered on April 14 were aware that Fairfax County is planning to temporarily relocate the shelter to Lincolnia, a plan that has met with strong opposition from some local residents.

The Bailey's shelter on Moncure Avenue is set to be displaced by an apartment building.
A couple of guys throwing a football on the shelter’s front lawn and a middle-aged woman studying the Bible weren’t interested in talking about their path to homelessness. Several men zoned out in front of the 7-Eleven across the street didn’t seem up for a chat. But two residents sitting on a picnic bench in the side yard agreed to share their stories.

Dana Guthrie, 62,  had spent the afternoon looking for work and was happy to have found a construction job from Ace Temporaries in Arlington, but needs to get some work boots before he can start.

A recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, Guthrie says he kicked the habit during a stint in the Fairfax County jail in 2013.

This is the first time Guthrie had been homeless, he says. His wife died in 2000, and he’d been living in an apartment on Carlin Springs Road with his son and daughter-in-law when the three of them were evicted. He has three daughters in other parts of the country, but Guthrie, a Northern Virginia native, says he wants to stay in this area.

Guthrie described the shelter routine: Residents are woken up at 6 a.m. They do chores, like wiping windows or sweeping the floors. Then they have breakfast, which usually consists of coffee and cereal..

They can come back in for lunch at 12:30, but then have to be out of the building until the dorms open at 4:30 p.m. In the evening, residents can attend an AA meeting, Bible group, or watch TV in the lounge.

David Marmoll, 30, grew up in Prince William County. He’s been making an effort stay off drugs after years of being a heroin and opioid addict, a habit he started in high school.

He blames his addiction for everything that went wrong with his life. He dropped out of the University of Mary Washington, “lost plenty of jobs,” and served time in the Prince William County jail in 2009 for possession of heroin and other drugs. “I went a little crazy and spent all my money on my habit,” he says. 

After being evicted from his parents’ home, he crashed with friends, slept in his truck, and stayed at other shelters. “My parents are pretty much fed up,” he says. He can’t stay with them anymore and would “feel pathetic being 30 and staying with my mom.”

Marmoll recently got a full-time job at the Home Depot on Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road after filling out an application and passing a drug test at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center on Little River Turnpike.

Marmoll vows to stay clean and goes to the Fairfax Methadone Treatment Center in Annandale “I am not going to do anything to lose that job,” he says.

He’s been at the Bailey’s shelter for four weeks and hopes to stay a big longer so he can save enough money to rent a place to live. “If I can get a few more paychecks, I’ll be able to get a room,” he says.  

He knows he should go back to college and get a degree, but “for now, just making an honest dollar and working on recovery is enough,” Marmoll says. “This is just a stepping stone for me.”

When he considers the other clients at the Bailey’s shelter, Marmoll says: ”We’re a little bit down on our luck. We made a few bad choices. We don’t mean to have a sense of entitlement. Some of us are trying to get back on our own feet.”


  1. Thank you for posting this. I think it is important to hear from the people on the other side of this discussion, and to remember that they are people trying to find a way to recover from bad choices or bad luck. I hope that as we hear more about the potential plans for the shelter we can keep that in mind and have civil productive conversation about the issues.

  2. Man, reading here I got the impression the homeless were violent criminals to be segregated away. Who knew they were human.

    No matter where the temporary shelter goes, this shelter needs replacing.

    1. It does need replacing. Not only is the facility not in good condition after being well used for many years, it really isn't designed for what are today seen as the best practices for moving people *out* of homelessness. Which should be the goal--not just shelter.

      From my understanding of one of the earlier temporary proposals, the intent was a new facility that provided better accommodations and better suited current anti-homelessness efforts. I hope that will be the case at whichever location is the final choice.

  3. Timely article. Just wish this would have come out before the BoS/County stole their shelter to build luxury condos. Why cant we keep the shelter in Bailey's again? Oh yeah, forgot the developer paid half the BoS off!

  4. Why is shelter okay in Baileys but not in Lincolnia?

  5. thank you for your excellent work on this. they are people that deserve respect.

  6. The inhumanity of Fairfax County regarding people of homelessness is clearly evident in the interview - "None of the residents of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter encountered on April 14 were aware that Fairfax County is planning to temporarily relocate the shelter to Lincolnia." The County never even asked any of these folks what they wanted. Instead, the County decided on its own to forcibly remove these folks from a Shelter that has existed for 30 years and signed a contract to do just that by 1 March 2017. Disgusting.

  7. You are asking the wrong question.

    Why do we need to move it in the first place?....

    1. Well, we know the answer to this questions-- it needs to be moved so that AvalonBay, Landmark Atlantic, and 5827 Columbia Pike Associates LLC can get a good return on the $100s of thousands in campaign contributions made to Penny Gross and Sharon Bulova. John Thillmann needs his bonus check!

  8. Thank you Ellie for another great article. I can't say enough about your blog and how it highlights all of the perspectives out there. I feel like other publications - if they are even bothering to cover this story - stop after covering the land swap which precipitates the change and then the opposition to the move, but don't go to the ground to see who is affected. You cover it all, and you have my continued appreciation for that.

    1. Great articles, rounds out the perspective and hopefully removes some of the stigma associated with the homeless and their needs.

      I can appreciate the nearby homeowners concerns. The County should be out there disuaging fears and providing the support that both the neighborhoods and the homeless need, or they should get out of the business of leadership.

      Thanks for touching all facets of this debate.

  9. Agreed. Nice reporting, Ellie.

  10. Above the Noise4/19/16, 10:17 AM

    Thank you Ellie, this is what I'm talking about! Covering all sides. Real journalism.

  11. Indeed this is an important article, and one wishes Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Marmoll --and others who are cleaning up their lives--all the best. God bless them. The collective voice of those of us who oppose placing the shelter in Lincolnia has never been against helping the homeless, and has never proclaimed that all homeless people are bad people. That said, reliable studies show that 20 to 30% of homeless people suffer from severe mental illness, and substance abuse is widespread among them (see American Planning Association and the National Association to End Homeless). Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Marmoll were, after all, both drug addicts at one point. The crime statistics around the current shelter location--and other shelters like it--are much higher than nearby areas, including the Lincolnia area where the new shelter is proposed. Homeless shelters like this one attract homeless people to their vicinity, dramatically increasing the amount of vagrancy, loitering, panhandling, drunken disorderliness, and trade in illegal substances, all of which creates insecurity and blight in their immediate vicinity. The downward effect on property values, both residential and commercial, can be devastating and affects the entire area. Streets and other public spaces no longer feel safe. Storefronts become hangouts for panhandlers, some of whom can be aggressive. Parking lots become drug markets. The blight these facilities cause is real, just look at the strip along Columbia Pike near the current shelter. Wh y do we think the County and AvalonBay want to move the shelter? They know it depresses the value of properties in the area and moving it is vital to their plan to improve the strip. Are Lincolnia-area residents wrong to oppose the County causing the same kind of blight in their community? No! Nobody would be wrong for opposing it! This kind of shelter belongs in areas away from residential neighborhoods, retail stores, and restaurants, where families with children live, shop, and recreate. Yes, the homeless are people, too; children of God like the rest of us. But many of them are deeply troubled, and their presence in peaceful, stable, established communities is not conducive to those communities remaining peaceful and stable. It is wrong for the County to put this shelter at the proposed location. It is a bad land use proposal. There are County-owned parcels of land perfectly suitable for a shelter in the industrially zoned areas at the south end of Mason District (Backlick Rd and Hechinger Dr), not adjacent to residential communities, already served by water and sewer, and close to jobs and public transportation. Why can’t this shelter go there?