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).
You can fill in a simple form to provide your statement of support or request 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.
See the Mount Vernon District page about the shelter/firehouse. This page provides an overview of the project and presentations, questions asked, and minutes of meeting of a Task Force set up to discuss it. The Task Force consists of county staff, firefighters, and community leaders.
Some of the Task Force meetings are shown here:
The Task Force held its kick-off meeting on November 6, 2020.
Members of the community can listen in on meetings and ask questions at the end of the session. To find out about future meetings, click here or contact Christine Morin, chief of staff to Mt. Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck at email@example.com or 703 780-7518.
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