The Prince William County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a special use permit for a residence to house the county's homeless.
Trustees of Christ Chapel Assemblies of God will open the residence next spring on Smoketown Road in the Occoquan District. The home, to be called Christ Church Compassion House, will have 12 bedrooms and will be able to house two adults and one minor dependent per room. According to home administrator Jon Elliott, meals and laundry service will also be available.
The only other shelter in the county is run with government funds by ACTS (Action in Community Through Service) in Dumfries. It houses five persons.
County officials said that no opposition to the shelter came to their attention during the planning and hearing process. Last week the one county resident who spoke during the public hearing said he lives in the Neabsco District, which borders the rural area where the home will operate.
John McLeod said he was concerned that "the kind of homeless the District attracts," might use the shelter, which is also near Gar-Field High School, also in the Neabsco District. Elliott said applicants will be screened to ensure they are temporarily displaced and not chronically homeless.
The nearly nine-acre site on which the home sits belongs to the church but the building was once owned by Western Development Corp., developer of several shopping malls in the county. The company was planning to destroy the old building because it was on some property they had purchased and was what company officials termed "useless."
"We asked them to give it to us rather than tearing it down," said Richard Delap, the pastor who will use the top floor of the facility as a home for himself and his family. "The company not only gave us the building, they paid to move it and poured a concrete foundation for it," he said. "It cost them at least $20,000 just to move it."
Delap and Elliott said they decided to build a group home because of the need they witness in the county on a daily basis. According to Delap, two or three families a day come to the church for help. "We do what we can but we can't help everybody," said Delap. "This is a dream becoming reality for us."
Rules for the shelter include:
*No alcohol or drugs.
*Smoking in the "family room" only.
*A 9 p.m. curfew.
*A month's deadline fo leaving.
The staff report indicated that residents would be required to undergo counseling as a condition for staying at the shelter, but Elliott said counseling services will always be optional.
"People will get whatever kind of counseling they need on housing, employment, whatever -- to help them become independent," he said.
The report also recommended that the time any one person may stay at the shelter should not amount to more than a year cumulatively, but Delap said that condition is not being considered seriously by Christ Church officials.
"There is no way that a person will be allowed to keep coming back for that amount of time without us taking a very hard look at what is causing the return. The kind of residents we expect to help will never be with us that long."
The church officials said they expect abused women and their children to use the shelter, as well as persons displaced by fire or economic setback and those who have traveled to Prince William looking for work.
The church expects to help 350 to 400 adults annually, Delap said. The monthly bills, which he estimates at $4,000, will be paid with donations to the church.