Ground was broken yesterday for Loudoun County's first permanent shelter for the homeless, which will be built and financed largely through contributions from the development industry.
The $750,000 building, located just south of Leesburg, will house about 40 people and will be geared more for "transitional" housing of up to a year than for emergency shelter. The shelter is designed to help families and single women learn job skills and obtain permanent homes in the community. It is slated for opening in November, about a year behind schedule.
More than 60 companies have pledged services, supplies or money to the public-private project, which apparently is the first of its kind in the Washington area.
"If we did not have partnerships like this, many of the needs of our citizens would go unfulfilled," Loudoun County Board Chairman Betty W. Tatum (D-Guilford) said at yesterday's ceremony, held inside a county government building near the site of the planned shelter.
Loudoun has been unique among area localities in having put no significant funding toward the construction or operation of a permanent homeless shelter. A 1989 county staff report said that Loudoun deals with homelessness "in a fragmented and stopgap manner." The county pays for hotel rooms for some homeless people, and a private, church-sponsored organization provides emergency shelter for dozens more.
The county government donated the land for the new shelter and will share operational costs with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Officials say at least two national nonprofit groups with experience in serving the homeless have applied for county authority to run the new Loudoun shelter. Officials concede that the building will accommodate only a fraction of those in need.
Intergate Investment Builders Vice President Bruce DeAtley, coordinator of the private-sector drive to build the Loudoun facility, said about $100,000 in funds, materials and services is still needed to finish the building.
County officials declined to say whether the Loudoun government would finance what the building industry does not, but board Vice Chairman Charles A. Bos (D-Leesburg) said "I don't think anybody wants to see us fail."
More than $500,000 worth of private-sector commitments are in hand, despite what DeAtley said yesterday is a major downturn in the region's economy.
"It's tragic that in a country as rich as ours such a facility is necessary," he said. Noting that many in the county's homeless population hold jobs, he added, "This is more of a commentary on the lack of affordable housing than anything else."