|Fairfax County is purchasing this former animal hospital as the site for a new homeless shelter.|
The Board of Supervisors has signed a contract to purchase a property at 5914 Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads for $1.4 million for a permanent shelter. There is a one-story building on the 20,000-square foot property that used to house the Fairfax Animal Hospital. It’s not close to residential neighborhoods and is near the bus routes on Columbia Pike and Route 7.
Deputy County Executive Robert Stalzer told the Planning Commission the new shelter will have 54 beds and 15 units of supportive housing. The building will have four stories, including one story below ground. Although the site is smaller than the current shelter on Moncure Avenue, he said, “we will be able to accommodate what we need plus parking.”
The county expects to use bond money, from an $85 million human services and community development bond referendum what will be on the November 2016 ballot.If the bond isn’t passed by voters, other county funds are expected to be available.
The Bailey’s shelter needs to be relocated to make way for an AvalonBay apartment project approved by the BoS for Moncure Avenue.
According to Stalzer, the county is expected to close with AvalonBay in late 2017, and construction of the new shelter will begin in early 2018. It should be completed and ready to serve the homeless by the end of 2019. Construction of the AvalonBay project is expected to start in early 2018.
Site work on the temporary shelter, consisting of modular units on a field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center, at 4701 N. Chambliss St., should start in February 2017. The shelter should be ready for occupancy in fall 2017. It will be smaller than the existing shelter, Stalzer said; it will have 46 beds rather than 50 and will have less office space.
Once the new shelter is up and running, he said, the temporary shelter will be removed, and the field will be returned to its original condition. That should happen in fall 2019.
Many residents who live near the Lincolnia Senior Center – and people who volunteer there – had strongly opposed the temporary shelter, citing concerns about security, crime, and the loss of green space. Opponents of the temporary shelter testified against it at the Planning Commission hearing July 20, spoke out at numerous community meetings, and showered the commissioners with emails.
Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, told the Planning Commission an advisory group will be formed this fall to address concerns associated with the temporary shelter.
The committee would include presidents of the homeowner associations in contiguous communities and representatives from the Lincolnia Senior Center, Mason Supervisor Penny Gross’ office, Northern Virginia Family Services (the shelter’s operator), Landmark Plaza shopping center, Community Services Board, Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, Consumer Advisory Council, the faith community, and the Housing and Community Development Department. A formerly homeless person would be included, too.
Katayoon Shaya, of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, said the project will include new fencing between the shelter, neighborhoods, and the senior center. Additional security measures, including controlled access and security staff patrols, will be implemented.
Commissioner Timothy Sargeant (at-large) asked staff whether an email list or other means could be set up to immediately notify nearby residents about any problems at the shelter. Stalzer said that’s the type of issue that would be addressed by the advisory committee and noted that the existing citizen alert network could be used.
Commissioner Ellen Hurley (Braddock) asked what will happen if a person is refused entry to the shelter, say if they’ve been drinking, for example, but hadn’t committed a crime or didn’t need medical attention.
If the shelter is full or people are turned away for other reasons, they would be encouraged to stay with family or friends or go to another shelter, said Tom Barnett of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. “In this case, we will work with on-site security to make sure they are not loitering on the property,” he said.
“We would have a plan of action,” Klein added, “and police would be contacted if they refuse to leave.”
Sargeant called for shelter staff to transport an individual not admitted to another location. “This is not business as usual,” he said, referring to the location of the shelter so close to residential communities and a facility for seniors. The shelter should “do everything possible to address these concerns,”he said.
Hurley remained concerned about what will happen when homeless people are denied access, and for that reason, abstained from voting. All the other commissioners voted to approve the temporary shelter.
Commissioner Julie Strandlie (Mason) said she thought long and hard about which way to vote but in the end said she supported the shelter relocation because many of the concerns raised by the community had been addressed. “Many will disagree but the public process worked. All voices were heard. The county answered all questions raised by the public.”
There have been many developments since the Mason District Land Use Committee voted in June against endorsing the project, Strandlie noted.
The county’s purchase of a new site ensures the temporary shelter won’t become permanent, for example. Homeless people will not be locked out of the shelter during the day, upgraded security measures will be in place, and the seniors will still have access to part of their field and garden, she said. Remaining concerns from the community will be addressed by the advisory committee.