Loudoun County's Bigger Homeless Shelter Strives for Intimate Feel

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Skylights that stream natural sunlight, plush sofas and kitchens with stainless steel appliances are some of the modern additions to Loudoun County's new emergency homeless shelter.

The shelter moved Monday from its remote The Woods Road location to an expanded wing of the county's transitional housing facility on Meadowview Court, near Leesburg Executive Airport.

The 8,300-square-foot site houses a 32-bed area for single women and families, up from 24 beds spread among three houses on The Woods Road. It includes a 13-bed space for single men, the first of its kind in Loudoun.

The men's space will cater to an underserved homeless population, said Hope Stonerook, assistant director for the Loudoun Department of Family Services.

"The single men in the county who have been homeless, even though they've been employed, they haven't had a place to stay," Stonerook said. "You don't have an address, and what if you work nights? There's no place to sleep during the day."

Construction began in December. The $2.2 million project was funded by the county's Capital Improvement Program and about $500,000 in federal and state grants.

The county has a contract with Volunteers of America Chesapeake, a faith-based nonprofit corporation, to operate the shelter.

The site will expand when Loudoun's drop-in center moves this month. The center provides daytime services to the homeless, where they can shower, do laundry and receive a meal.

Next month, the county's emergency cold-weather shelter also will relocate to the new facility from a leased building in Lucketts. The cold-weather shelter is open from November to March.

The new shelter's space for women and families currently houses 18 residents. The men's section will open in two weeks, officials said, and the shelter is accepting referrals by phone.

The shelter was moved to make room for the county landfill. Its expansion comes at a time when shelter occupancies have soared in Loudoun because of higher unemployment. According to the county, on average, the shelter was 93 percent full from July 1, 2008, to June 30, up from 82 percent the previous year.

Helen Richardson, the shelter's homeless services director, said more than half the residents are typically homeless for the first time. Richardson said many of them had depleted their resources before turning to the shelter, having lost their jobs and homes.

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