Fairfax County homeless population falls as coalition grows

Mary Littman, left, and Debbie Gordon sort supplies at an event organized by the Fairfax Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Mary Littman, left, and Debbie Gordon sort supplies at an event organized by the Fairfax Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. (Elizabeth Dodd For Fairfax County Times)
By Kali Schumitz
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Those working to end homelessness in Fairfax County have made inroads in the past few years and could have even greater results with new efforts aimed at bringing businesses into the effort.

Following a plan developed in 2007, an annual count of the county's homeless population in January tallied slightly more than 1,500, according to Fairfax County officials. That number is down from more than 1,800 in 2008.

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness already has local nonprofit groups, their supporters and county officials working together more than ever before, said Amanda Andere, executive director of FACETS, a Fairfax-based nonprofit that provides transitional housing and other services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The community partnership, which includes FACETS, was formed as part of the county's plan to end homelessness in the area by December 2018. Its goal is to engage the community in the effort and coordinate resources among county, nonprofit, faith, business and community leaders.

"We are seeing partnership in a totally different way," Andere said. "We are meeting together on a regular basis. . . . We're applying for grants together."

Now, the partnership is working to attract more business support to the goal of ending homelessness.

Its governing board includes several business leaders, and the year-old Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness provides assistance from county staff to support outreach efforts. The Office to Prevent and End Homelessness has a budget of $9.6 million, which includes operating costs for the county's six emergency shelters.

Businesses have a huge stake in preventing and ending homelessness, according to Andere and Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.

"We're helping them to have an attractive place to come and work," Andere said.

In addition to bringing more dollars to the nonprofits that help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, having more businesses engaged in the partnership helps generate more volunteers and in-kind service donations, Klein said.

"They can also really leverage what their expertise is, whether it be graphic design or assistance with marketing and public relations," Klein said.

Earlier this month, Google helped kick off the effort with an event at its Reston offices that drew about 60 business leaders. The event was designed to let businesses know how they can get involved in homelessness prevention efforts.

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