Homeless people in southeast Fairfax County will be housed this winter in motels along Rte. 1, according to county officials whose attempts to find neighborhood refuges were repeatedly opposed by citizen groups.
One other temporary shelter for the homeless has been located for this winter in the Baileys Crossroads area.
The shelters are scheduled to open Dec. 1.
For the last two winters, a group of 15 churches in southeast Fairfax has provided shelter for as many as 70 homeless people a night. But the group said this year it could not provide the service again, primarily because it is not equipped to do so.
County officials acknowledged yesterday that using four or five motels to house the homeless this winter -- which they estimate will cost nearly $300,000 -- is not an ideal solution. They emphasized that it is a stopgap measure for this winter only and that the county will have a permanent shelter in place at Fort Belvoir next year.
"There's no question the coordination will be more difficult in the motels," said Verdia L. Haywood, deputy county executive for human services. "But we will have a roof over people's heads, and we will have food provided."
The Rev. Vin A. Harwell, pastor of Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, said yesterday he was relieved that temporary winter shelter had been found along the Rte. 1 corridor. But Harwell, a spokesman for Mount Vernon Emergency Shelters Inc., chided the county for settling on what he called "a Disneyland kind of program in terms of complexity and what it will demand from the county staff."
Harwell said the motel program "has been arrived at out of desperation because county officials simply could not do what they thought best because of political considerations."
Specifically, Harwell is concerned that church volunteers will not be able to care for the homeless in the motels, other than to help provide them with food. He predicted snags in monitoring the homeless and making sure they can find beds.
County officials acknowledged that there will be some administrative problems but stressed that they are expanding a program already in place that supplies motel rooms to families who are homeless temporarily.
"I think it's the best that can be worked out under some very difficult circumstances," said T. Farrell Egge, supervisor for the county's Mount Vernon District, where the motels are located. "The key thing is that it's temporary and that it keeps people from being in danger of the elements over the winter months."
County officials expect to shelter an average of 50 persons a night in the motels along Rte. 1. On a given night this winter, more than 100 homeless persons are expected to take refuge in the Baileys Crossroads temporary center and two other family shelters in the county.
Still, many of the estimated 400 homeless people in Fairfax never go to county-sponsored homes, county officials say.
County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert said yesterday that he has directed that the work on the permanent shelter for the homeless at Fort Belvoir be hastened.