Ventures in Community was formed in the mid-1970s around an effort to help homeless people in the Route 1 area. We support construction of a new shelter (funded by a 2016 bond issue) to replace the Kennedy Shelter, a 100-year-old water pump house on Fort Belvoir. The county has purchased land to co-locate this new shelter with the Penn Daw Fire Station at Beacon Hill Road and Richmond Highway (see map).
Supervisor Storck Decides for Site on Beacon Hill Rd. [Dec 2, 2021]
On December 2, 2021, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck made the following announcement:
After a year of considerable analysis that included community input, site considerations of size, zoning, parking, and community impacts, and with significant community outreach, County staff recommended the Beacon Hill site for co-location of a new fire station and emergency and supportive housing. Other available sites could not provide the same level of services that Fairfax County residents expect and need.
After very careful consideration, and in consultation with and the support of Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, I have accepted staff’s recommendation. County staff will now proceed with planning and design work. I will be asking many members of the current Advisory Committee to continue in their critical role to provide design and community feedback throughout this process. Chairman Jeff McKay shared, “I appreciate all the work of County staff and the community to get us to this point. It is vital that we work together to make sure this facility is state of the art, addresses community concerns, and provides help for our vulnerable neighbors. While I know this isn’t the outcome some had hoped for, we will work closely with the Fire and Rescue Department and surrounding neighbors to be sure this co-location is carefully designed to meet multiple County and community needs.”
Benefits of the Beacon Hill site include:
• Co-location of the fire station, emergency and affordable housing in alignment with the County’s One Fairfax and Diversion First Objectives; and provide considerable cost savings;
• Easy access to public transportation and job opportunities for housing residents; and
• Locating affordable housing with emergency and supportive housing provides residents with an opportunity to move through the continuum of housing options.
I am committed to working with the Advisory Committee and surrounding neighborhoods to make this a safe, state-of-the-art facility of which we can all be proud. Formal public hearings will be held by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in 2022. Visit the project website for more information.
See the recording of a March 2020 meeting for a county presentation on searching for sites for the shelter and the fire house, proposing co-location of both, statements by formerly homeless people, and an audience Q&A. This meeting was co-sponsored by VIC and the South County Task Force, both of which support a modern homeless shelter in Mt Vernon District.The county recently posted Frequently Asked Questions about the shelter.
Last fall Mt Vernon District Supervisor Dan Stork formed a task force of representatives of the fire department and union and local organizations and residents to hear and discuss plans from county staff on the proposed co-location of the new Penn Daw Fire House and Kennedy Shelter along with additional supportive and affordable housing. All meetings were held by Zoom and materials filed on the Mount Vernon District page about the shelter/firehouse. This page provides an overview of the project and presentations, questions asked, and minutes of meetings of the Task Force as well as dates and agendas for upcoming meetings.
The Supervisor also held two community meetings in English and one in Spanish:
Ventures in Community and the South County Task Force sponsored a presentation on the project at a
joint VIC/SCTF Information Meeting on the Kennedy Shelter Replacement
Ventures in Community has joined a larger local coalition of faith communities, organizations and individuals formed to promote the Beacon Hill location of the shelter as the most appropriate site on the table. Despite some local neighborhood opposition, which is not unusual for a new homeless shelter, we believe this is the best site because it meets the needs of homeless residents:
To find out more about Kennedy Shelter Allies, go to their webpage, and sign up for their newsletter and action alerts.
Fairfax County had a 10-year plan to end homelessness between 2008 and 2018. In 2018, the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) issued a report on its efforts and challenges in reducing the homeless population by 46% over 10 years. In the past couple years, the homeless population has risen slightly here as elsewhere in the nation. The 2020 annual count showed that single adults accounted for 49% of all homeless persons counted (a total of 513 people) and 51% of all homeless persons counted, consisted of 161 families (528 people).
In 2020, OPEH was folded into the Department of Housing and Community Development to combine efforts on the full spectrum of affordable housing from homeless shelters to workforce housing.
The current shelter for South County is a worn-out 100-year old water pump house on Fort Belvoir. A replacement was funded in a 2016 bond issue and the new shelter is now scheduled to be built by 2026—that is 10 years after funding was secured. That’s a long wait for the homeless community, which is desperate for help. The new shelter is slated to house the same number of individuals–50–as the current shelter. It will also provide about 20 efficiencies for homeless individuals who are elderly or disabled.
Kennedy Shelter at Fort Belvoir.
Photos show exterior (front and rear with the old water tank pit), lobby, TV room, bunk rooms, showers, kitchen, laundry, and storage.
Homeless people live in our community. You often meet them on the streets and in local shopping center parking lots. Many of them are vulnerable to bad weather, malnutrition, and violence. In summer, some live in camps in the woods. In winter, because of the danger posed by cold weather, the demand for overnight sheltering increases.
In addition to the county's five major year-round homeless shelters, faith communities throughout the county open up and operate hypothermia shelters in partnership with the nonprofit shelter agencies with financial support from the County. Along Richmond Highway, VIC faith community volunteers staff a hypothermia shelter that serves up to 24 individuals each night. This service would continue.
The latest thinking
The new shelter will be designed to reflect the latest thinking in services for homeless people. It will not be an overnight warehouse that turns its guest out first thing in the morning, but rather a supportive and supervised environment where guests can access resources and services to end their homelessness. Guests receive three meals a day, laundry, and showers, as well as referrals to community-based services, assistance in locating housing, and other resources to advance their self-sufficiency. They can attend events in a community room or meetings with social service or medical staff. Many individuals are re-housed after a short-term shelter stay with the help of onsite staff and supportive services. The average stay at the Kennedy Shelter is 77 days. Some elderly or disabled people are re-housed at one of three locations with 58 small efficiencies called “permanent supportive housing.”
How does the community benefit from a new shelter?
This approach to homeless shelters benefits the surrounding community. If our homeless residents can live in a modern facility with daytime activities and supportive services, they are less likely to gather at shopping centers and bus stops, or camp in the woods. New Hope Housing, which runs the Kennedy Shelter and Mondloch House in Mt. Vernon District and the modern Bailey’s Shelter in Mason District—and which would run this new shelter—works to engage the support of neighborhoods near its shelters and involve them in building a strong and mutually supportive connection.
Bailey’s Shelter and Supportive Housing, which was funded in the same 2016 bond issue that will fund the new Kennedy Shelter in Mt. Vernon, opened in November 2019. The new Kennedy Shelter would incorporate many of its features, such as regular meals, medical respite beds, efficiency apartments, and day-long options for activities.
Bailey's Shelter exterior
Aldersgate United Methodist Church (pdf)Download
Bahá'í Community of Mount Vernon (pdf)Download
Bahá'í Community of Mount Vernon Gratitude for Final Decision (pdf)Download
Good Shepherd Catholic Church (pdf)Download
Groveton Baptist Church (pdf)Download
Hope United Church of Christ (pdf)Download
Mount Vernon Unitarian Church (pdf)Download
Mount Vernon United Methodist Church (pdf)Download
Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church (pdf)Download
Woodlawn-Faith United Methodist Church (pdf)Download
Abbatiello, J (Spring Bank resident) (pdf)Download
Anderson, J & N (pdf)Download
Barnes, D (pdf)Download
Clay-McEntire, V & family (Spring Bank residents) (pdf)Download
Collins, R (pdf)Download
Collins, W (pdf)Download
Cotter, B (pdf)Download
Edwards, P & J (pdf)Download
Moniz, K (pdf)Download
Support Comments Shared with Ventures in Community (pdf)Download