The homeless are not difficult to find in Arlington County if you know where to look.
Some hang out by certain Metro exits, while others prefer to slip into the vest-pocket parks where few notice them. One man, sleeping by a dumpster behind a funeral home, died last month during the temperate spring weather that didn’t seem dangerous to those with a roof and a bed. In 2011, at least three other homeless people died.
The solution to homelessness, activists have resolved after years of providing temporary or emergency services, is to get people into a home.
With a $500,000 donation from a local developer and the promise of another $500,000 from Arlington County, the Arlington County Foundation this week launched a fundraising campaign, part of the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.with 100 homes for 100 homeless people by July 2013.
The private grant came from the Shooshan Company, whose founder, John Shooshan, is co-chair of the project to get homeless people into permanent supportive housing.
“We want the whole community to be part of this,” said Wanda L. Pierce, Executive Director of the Arlington Community Foundation. Shooshan’s donation, she hopes, will prompt others to contribute as well, particularly business owners who have made Arlington their home.
“John is very modest,” Pierce said, “and he really does practice what he preaches.”
The 100 Homes for 100 Homeless Arlingtonians is part of a statewide and national effort (1,000 Homes for 1,000 Homeless Virginians led by the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, and part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, led by Community Solutions). Over 100 communities across the country are participating in the national campaign.
One of Arlington’s tactics for housing the homeless has been to “buy down” the cost of existing housing so it’s affordable to a new renter. The 100 Homes project also provides supportive services, because moving from the streets to an empty apartment isn’t an easy transition.
In Arlington, 15 people have been housed since October, but the demand is much higher.
When surveyed last October, 185 Arlington residents were identified as chronically homeless. More than a third were considered vulnerable, at risk of death because of their chronic physical or mental illnesses, which include malnutrition, alcoholism, drug use and exposure.