At Loudoun Interfaith Relief’s food pantry, Bonnie Inman, the group’s executive director, has seen an increase in demand — up 80 percent since 2007 — and expects the need to remain high.
“I can’t believe how many new people are walking through that door,” she said. About 1,800 people a month now show up to get a twice-monthly allotment of food.
In Fairfax County, the Department of Family Services saw a 3.7 percent increase in the number of people requesting public assistance in the past year.
Kerrie Wilson, who heads Reston Interfaith, said the Fairfax County hotline for assistance gets about 400 calls a day — far less than the 600 calls it logged every day in 2010, but well above the 200-calls-a-day level before the recession began.
Fairfax officials attribute the rise in part to foreclosures and the high cost of living.
“Well I know everybody brags about Fairfax being one of the richest counties to live in, but what people don’t understand is it’s one of the most expensive, too,” It’s very hard to afford to live here,” said Diana Lutchey, 28, a mother of three who lives in Alexandria.
Jeffrey Tibbs, 46, has been homeless in Fairfax County for three years and sometimes slept in the back of his truck before he landed a bed at the Crossroads Community Shelter in Baileys Crossroads. Despite sometimes chaotic living conditions, he’s always managed to hold a job, even if it was seasonal or part-time.
“I think the economy is hard for everyone,” he said. “I know people with careers and who have been at jobs longer than I have who have lost their jobs. Everything is so devastating. . . . It’s hard, hard for everybody.”
Now he’s working two $11-an-hour jobs at a fast-food restaurant and caterer while trying to find an affordable apartment. OnThursday, he was rejected for a studio apartment at one rental complex because he wasn’t working full time. Disheartened but not ready to give up, he said he would ask for more hours at work. He said he hopes to stay in Fairfax County, even if the high cost of living has made it difficult.
“This might be a county that might have more opportunity or be more wealthy, but if that’s the case, why am I still homeless?” he wondered.
One day this week at Food for Others, a 38-year-old woman, there with her husband and two of her four children, loaded cardboard boxes full of hamburger buns, eggs, milk and canned food into their SUV. Because the family is newly homeless, she did not give her name, citing embarrassment.
The woman said she and her family had moved to Burke from Prince William a few years back because of the well-regarded public school system. Her son, who had struggled academically, began to excel at school.
In recent months, she and her husband, who are delivery truck drivers, have seen their work hours cut back dramatically. They fell behind on their rent, were evicted from their apartment and are living in a hotel. They’re considering moving to a cheaper neighborhood in Stafford County..
She’ll miss Fairfax, with its good schools, safe neighborhoods and close-in commute. Where, despite her reduced circumstances, she had felt like the fortunate.
“You have so many benefits, but here you have to pay to play,” she said.
Ted Mellnik contributed to this article.