Near Closure, Homelessness Group Seeks Funds

Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly was angry that county staff didn't inform him earlier about the problem.
Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly was angry that county staff didn't inform him earlier about the problem. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Centreville nonprofit organization that works to prevent homelessness in western Fairfax County said yesterday that it might have to close for good Saturday unless it can find emergency funding.

Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, founded by a coalition of churches in 1987, helps about 1,200 people each month with food, transportation, medical bills and furniture to prevent them from slipping into homelessness. The agency is set to receive $191,000 from Fairfax County for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But Executive Director Dorothy Fonow said disappointing fundraising, unsuccessful grant applications and declining revenue from other sources have left the organization unable to meet its $60,000 monthly operating budget.

"Things just didn't work out," Fonow said.

Fonow and a delegation of banner-wielding supporters caused a minor ruckus at yesterday's meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which was preparing to formally approve its fiscal 2008 budget. Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) was angered not by the group's appeal for funds but because county staff, which had been working with Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) on the problem for about a week, had failed to inform him until this weekend.

Connolly upbraided Deputy County Executive Verdia L. Haywood for failing to keep him in the loop. "That is unacceptable," he said, "unless the department of human services wishes to operate outside the budget of this county."

The board asked Haywood to meet with ministry representatives and return next week with recommendations on how the county might help.

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