While opponents of the creation of an Arlington County homeless services center, including a 24/7 year-round shelter, have made a lot of noise over the past year, they are going up against unified official and significant unofficial support.
The board unanimously agreed Saturday to spend $27.1 million on a seven-story building near the courthouse that will house five stories of office space and two stories for a homeless shelter and program.
While supporters of the homeless services center testified as eloquently as the opponents, what was remarkable was the strong support displayed by Arlington officials.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan started the discussion by declaring herself proud that the county “is making good on its declaration that in this county, every person is important. We’re saying it’s not enough to provide beds in an inadequate winter shelter during the coldest months of the year. It is not enough to simply keep the homeless alive. We want to give them an opportunity to rebuild their lives. ... I absolutely believe that we are going to build something at 2020 14th Street that will absolutely make us proud.”
Residents of the adjacent Woodbury Heights condos have objected to the redevelopment of the existing office complex to include a shelter for the homeless. Proponents have noted that the building is across the street from police headquarters, and just one block from the existing emergency winter shelter that’s been replaced. (On the map above, the 170-unit condo is at the bottom, next to the Hilton.)
Board member Chris Zimmerman called the decision “sensible and in the long run, economical.” Chair Mary Hynes said many of the condo residents’ objections will be addressed in the use permit that the board expects to vote on in March.
Board member Jay Fisette added that over his tenure on the County Board, he’s seen multiple community controversies when neighbors don’t want social services in their neighborhood.
“Everyone of these has worked out. I cannot think of one that has not worked out. The fears, however heartfelt, were not realized ... that’s the situation I see us in today and I have every confidence the same outcome will result,” he said.