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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lincolnia residents speak out against homeless shelter relocation

An overflow crowd at the MDLUC meeting.
An overflow crowd showed up at the Mason District Land Use Committee meeting May 24 to voice their opposition to Fairfax County’s plans for relocating the Bailey’s Crossroads homeless shelter to a field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center on N. Chambliss Street.

Local residents are concerned about the loss of outdoor recreational space, the quality of life for seniors, crime, the safety of children, and the possibility that what is supposed to be a temporary shelter will end up being permanent.

The county wants to move the shelter from its current site on Moncure Avenue in Bailey’s Crossroads to make way for an apartment building to be developed by AvalonBay. The shelter relocation is part of a land swap approved by the Board of Supervisors in February to facilitate redevelopment in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The relocation of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to Lincolnia is supposed to be temporary solution – for four to six years – until the county can find a permanent site for an expanded shelter that would include transitional housing.

“That effort is actively going on. We are looking at a number of sites,” and the land acquisition staff is making contact with property owners. said Katayoon Shaya, in the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

The field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center.

The funds for a permanent shelter would come from a bond referendum that would have to be approved by voters. If the bond fails to pass, she said, the county would use an alternative funding source, such as economic development bonds.

The 6,000 square-foot temporary building will have 50 beds. Construction would begin this fall, and the facility could be ready for occupancy by late spring or summer of 2017. A number of security features, such as cameras, an access control system, breathalyzers, and regular patrols, would be implemented.

“Shelters are necessary in our community to protect vulnerable people,” said Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. A third of the people served at the Bailey’s shelter are over age 51, and many have chronic health issues. The emphasis is on finding transitional and permanent housing as soon as possible, he says.

The county’s homeless shelters bar clients during the day – they are supposed to be working, looking for jobs, or taking care of health needs. But Klein said the county is changing that policy in response to community concerns and would allow the temporary shelter in Lincolnia to stay open during the day. 

The MDLUC did not vote on the shelter proposal. It will do so before the Fairfax County Planning Commission holds a public hearing on it, said committee chair Daniel Aminoff. The MDLUC will determine whether to endorse the project at its next meeting, on June 28, but its recommendations are not binding.

The Planning Commission hearing is currently scheduled for July 13, although it could be delayed. A vote is not likely to be posted to another meeting after the hearing.

Because the shelter project is proposed by the county, not a private developer, the final decision will be made by the Planning Commission, rather than the Board of Supervisors, said Chris Caperton, chief of the Facilities Planning Branch in the Department of Planning and Zoning.

In a presentation on the county’s “2232 review process” for public facility proposals, Caperton said his office is preparing a staff report – with input from various county agencies – that will include a determination of whether the proposal is in conformance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

The report, to be available online by mid-June, will consider such issues as whether the proposed project fits in with how the property is zoned, how it will look to nearby residents, and the impact on traffic, Caperton said. It will not discuss alternative sites for the shelter.

Deborah Fraser, a Lincolnia resident who spearheaded the “Stop the Shelter” campaign, called the  relocation proposal “an artificial problem of the county’s own making.” As part of what she calls an “ill-advised land swap” with AvalonBay, the county will incur a monetary penalty if the shelter is not moved from its current location by next March.

While Shaya said the shelter would only take up part of the field behind the Lincolnia Center, Fraser predicted the homeless would likely congregate on the remaining open space.

The project would “destroy the only open green space within a one-mile radius,” she said. “The loss of that recreational resource will diminish the quality of life for seniors, children, and the entire community.”

Among other issues cited by Fraser:
  • The county’s security assessment acknowledges the risk of crime.
  • The relocation will create an unnecessary disruption for the homeless; it will “be like a prison” for them.
  • It will lead to increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic in an already-congested area.
  • The 2232 process fails to consider the “forced interaction of two at-risk vulnerable populations – the homeless and seniors.”
  • There is a lack of transparency; the county should inform the public about why other sites have been rejected.
Michael Blaine urges the Mason District Land Use Committee to reject the shelter relocation proposal. Deborah Fraser is standing to his right.
Another Lincolnia resident, Michael Blaine, said Fairfax County should follow the American Planning Association’s guidelines that call for homeless shelters to be at least 2,500 feet from residential areas, elementary schools, and group living facilities. The proposed site is less than 1,000 feet away from daycare centers and playgrounds and just 200 feet from the senior center, he said.

Blaine also charged the proposal does not comply with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which says shelters are not compatible with stable, residential neighborhoods.

Residents at the Lincolnia Senior Center won’t be able to use their field anymore and will be confined indoors, he said. He also questioned why the county is spending $2.1 million on a temporary building. “I don’t believe it’s temporary,” he said.

A resident who lives near Lincolnia Road spoke about how people with mental illness and substance abuse problems hang around the Bailey’s shelter. Her neighbor’s house was broken into, and there are prostitutes hanging around and used condoms on the ground. “We don’t want that in our community,” she said.

Debbie Smith, chair of the Mason District Council, said there’s a need for a shelter in Bailey’s Crossroads, but not in Lincolnia. She called it “wasteful and irresponsible” for the county to move the shelter before it finds a permanent location.

Several people at the meeting spoke about the value of providing services to the homeless, including one man who said he used to be homeless and appreciated the help he received. Someone else who volunteered with the homeless spoke about how the Bailey’s shelter was developed after a couple of homeless people had frozen to death. 

Residents of Lincolnia responded that they don’t oppose the homeless and understand the need for a shelter for them; they just don’t want the shelter next door to their homes. 

Blaine asked the MDLUC members whether they would want to live within 50 yards of a homeless shelter, whether they would want their parents to live that close, and whether they would buy a house within 50 yards of a shelter. If their answer is no, he urged them to reject the county’s proposal.


  1. The County's responsibility for this mess has finally been laid bare. The relocation of the Shelter to Lincolnia is a direct result of their failure to find a permanent location and their unwise decision to sign an agreement to vacate the current Shelter by 1 March 2017.

    The County claims they are diligently looking for a permanent site but simultaneously refuse to share any information even under a VFOIA request. Its no wonder the residents do not trust Fairfax County and therefore believe that the "temporary" shelter will actually be permanent.

  2. A few more valid items as well:

    1) There is NO complete & dedicated sidewalk network to the proposed location In Lincolnia, nor is there a great bus network or many bus stops near-by.. ( compared to new sidewalks & multiple bus stops etc. at & near the current Bailey’s site).

    2) It is smart for the neighbors & the County to know where the residents go every day ( for job/ life skills training & medical care etc) -- during the daytime hours. As I would suspect that this location is not as convenient as the current site and creates more transportation issues for the residents than it solves..

    3) Unless a permanent location is identified up front ( now), I would not advise moving it anywhere as this Lincolnia site will become a de-facto permanent site.

    4) The largest liquor store within miles (Total Wine) is not an ideal neighbor for this use ( literally across the street).

    5) I do agree that the Senior Day Care & Senior Resident population is not an ideal mix with a new & active homeless shelter—just not a good match as far as age, awareness & vigilance of one’s surroundings , orientation & security.

    The County should be pro-active & go investigate real & viable sites … For instance the entire area around or near the current Bailey’s site :

    1) U-Store Self Storage
    Falls Church, VA
    5829 Seminary Rd. – Center Street –Scoville area
    Falls Church, VA 22041


    2) The Moose Lodge… 5710 Scoville St, Falls Church, VA 22041--( lots of Land & backs to commercial )

    Or 3) 5815 Seminary Rd, Falls Church, VA 22041 (this site was actually a DMV many years ago).

    Or 4) A series of vacant lots in the 6500 Block of Church St ( one block Off Columbia Pike—directly behind the German Gourmet & literally 1 block from the current Shelter)

    1. so the county should buy an existing business and then shut them down and open the center? how wouldn't that be a waste of tax dollars? stop complaining, the site being proposed is fine.

    2. If our neighborhood is kept safe - YES!! It's our money they're using anyway.

    3. my point exactly its all about YOU and not the greater good or others in the County. So selfish

    4. There is selfishness here and greed and callous indifference and it all starts with FAIRFAX COUNTY. It is the County that is forcibly evicting the homeless from the current Shelter without finding a new home despite having years to do so. The County does not want a shelter anywhere near the new government building they have planned, so the homeless have to go. They are so determined to do this that they signed a legally binding agreement to close down the existing shelter by 1 March 2017. The indifference and lack of humanity here is difficult to fathom.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Selfish? The greater good? How Orwellian of you. Let me guess I should also pay my fair share, but you won't define what "fair share" means. Isn't the county being selfish by displacing the homeless, and moving them further from social services and job opportunities both of which will help them become more stable.

      Isn't the county being selfish when moving the shelter next to the senior center will require the elderly residents to live on permanent lockdown and forego any greenspace on which to exercise and socialize?
      I guess both the homeless and seniors are being selfish and not thinking of the greater good if they raise these concerns.

    7. The selfishness extends to the piggy Fairfax County politicians (Lookin' at you Penny Gross and Sharon Bulova) who greedily accepted hundreds of thousands in political donations from the developers (AvalonBay, Landmark Atlentic-- John Thillman) who will make millions from the luxury housing they plan to build-- it will be hard to sell $750K townhouses that sit next to a homeless shelter. This "project" will not benefit the homeless, the seniors, Mason District residents or Fairfax County taxpayers-- but it will sure benefit AvalonBay, Landmark Atlantic, John Thillman, Sharon Bulova, and Penny Gross (oink, oink!). Check out to follow the money.......

  3. The County has a plethora of options available without imposing a homeless shelter on the elderly and family neighborhoods.

    If a temporary site is absolutely necessary, how about parking the homeless trailers in the parking lots of the County archives? That is an industrial park with a bus route and is rent free.

    It is disingenuous of Gross and the County staff to tell residents that they are out of options. Their party line doesn't pass the smell test.

    What is really, really going on?

  4. It's been touched on but never elaborated upon. The Lincolnia shelter site is permanent. Let me explain: The main two reasons the Lincolnia site was chosen was because Fairfax County already owns the property and it is already properly zoned for a use as a shelter. Once the residents living at the Senior Center die or relocate, who is going to place their elderly loved ones at a home where they are on lockdown and have no greenspace because of an adjacent "temporary" homeless shelter? Nobody. Once the population at the Senior Center dwindles, the County will conclude that the senior center should become the permanent homeless shelter because the county already owns it, it is already properly zoned and the building is already well-suited for a large number of adult residents. To rub salt in the wound, they will also use the fact that the "temporary" shelter has already made the location ideal for serving the homeless who miraculously now live there (thanks to the County who brought them there in the first place by opening up the "temporary" shelter there). There's nothing like good circular reasoning to justify shafting your constituents.

    1. Thank you for thinking this through. Unfortunately you are right this is the scenario for the future. The county loves shared services. I have heard that Robert Stalzer realized at the MDLUC meeting that he is going to have to share the properties with the public that the county has looked at and are looking at for possible relocation of the shelter. ThThe county can't say this is propriety information. Fairfax County is a public government that represents citizens. If they dealing with a private entity they can't keep that information secret!! Please write Robert Stalzer and demand to see the other properties. Relocating the shelter behind the senior center and surrounded by hundreds of homes cannot happen.

    2. Anon7:49
      I get it. That would be like the County driving working class homeowners out of their homes by allowing commercial interests to take over their neighborhoods; commercial interests that would then combine to rezone once stable, high quality neighborhoods to high density multifamily rental units yielding mega returns on their investments, the combining would be by special invitation only, of course. I believe they would do that. I know they’re capable of doing that. A curse on the rascals, or is the word gangsters.

    3. Reply to What's Really Going On... 5/25/16, 5:11 pm-- And the cherry on top of this s..t sundae is that the Lincolnia site is on the City of Alexandria- Fairfax County border, so 1/2 of the people impacted have no voice in the process.......

  5. Time to move...... I'm not giving FFX County one more penny of my hard earned money so they can use it to screw me!

  6. Don't forget, Penny wants $14.M in a November referendum to build a home and job training center for the homeless.

    1. More accurately, the bond referendum is for four (4) shelters to be upgraded and/or relocated, Bailey's being only one of them. Moreover, should the referendum fail, funding to relocate Bailey's will come from another source. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar; in this case, temporary really does mean temporary.

    2. Can't be certain that it will be temporary: "A temporary marketing center/office building constructed in 1986 to serve the Fairview Park commercial area near Falls Church will be allowed to exist indefinitely, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Feb. 16. The one-story, 7,359-square-foot facility, which shares a 6.1-acre parcel with an eight-story office building and a two-story parking garage, originally was allowed to exist through the build-out of the Fairview Park area. County planning staff did not find any problems during their review of the site and the applicant, Copt Fairview, has agreed to pave a walkway now covered with stepping stones, officials said.
      “It goes to show how long ‘temporary’ can last,” said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence). “We’ve all seen this before. And now it will be there forever.”"

    3. The temporary shelter in the Arlington Courthouse area was there for 20, yes 20 years before they just recently opened a permamemt shelter a block and a half away. Wait for it...county officials cited proximity to the temporary shelter as one of the reasons for putting a permanent shelter there. Btw, the temporary shelter is still open with no plans to close it.

  7. Selfish? The greater good? How Orwellian of you. Let me guess I should also pay my fair share, but you won't define what "fair share" means. Isn't the county being selfish by displacing the homeless, moving them further from social services and job opportunities both of which will help them become more stable.

    Isn't the county being selfish when moving the shelter next to the senior center will require the elderly residents to live on permanent lockdown and forego any greenspace on which to exercise and socialize?
    I guess both the homeless and seniors are being selfish and not thinking of the greater good if they raise these concerns.

    1. I don't think Orwellian means what you think it means.

  8. You're right. The commenter is simply advocating for socialism. Nothing bad can come from that.