Bulova Talks Poverty, High Cost of Housing

The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was part of a panel at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria on Thursday.

Residents of Fairfax County who make minimum wage could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still couldn’t afford to live in a one bedroom apartment due to high housing prices, says Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

That may be why 50 percent of the county’s approximately 1,500 homeless people have jobs but live in the woods, shelters or cars, said Bulova, speaking at a panel on poverty held at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria. Fairfax County has a population of 1.1 million with 60,000 people classified as living in poverty.

“They don’t make enough money to keep a roof over their heads,” she said. “Housing is expensive.”

She said the county works closely with its school system to ensure that students who live at the poverty level have a roof and food. Children have become the poorest age group in the country and it’s usually those who are being raised by single mothers who are the poorest, according to poverty experts who also spoke on the panel.

Other panelists were Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, and Peter Edelman, co-founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Panelists were interviewed by public television talk show host Tavis Smiley and author and educator Cornel West as part of Smiley and West's "Poverty Tour" to eight states.

“We are committed to ending homelessness as we know it,” Bulova said.

She recalled moving into a new neighborhood, going out for a run and stumbling across a homeless camp with three members that was “one mile from my new home. This was my neighbor and I needed to care about that.”

The county, which had a median household income of over $100,000 in 2009, now has an office specifically charged with preventing homelessness, she said. In 2009, Virginia had a median income of $59,330 and the United States, $50,221.

She added that the county’s faith community has been instrumental in raising awareness about the region’s homelessness issue. Churches, mosques and synagogues recently all participated in an organized anti-hypothermia program, raising awareness among their members.

In turn, it became a personal issue to those members who then “turned to the Fairfax government and said we want to address this” as a community, Bulova said.

“An impediment to our progress would be denial,” she said. “We have to acknowledge we have pockets of poverty.”  

Diane Blust September 16, 2012 at 10:58 AM
And, yet, the Board of Supervisors was in favor of the demolition of 348 garden apartment units in Reston that are relatively affordable so that the developer/owner of these apartments could increase the density by 240% and replace those apartments with high-end dwellings units, only 96 of which will be "affordable". It's hard for me to believe we are serious about affordable housing when things like that happen...
RKO September 16, 2012 at 06:22 PM
"Workforce housing" and "low income housing" are two of the excuses developers and Hudgins keep using to justify more and more development. Other, common sense ideas, like refurbishing older units or acquiring foreclosed units and leasing them at low rates simply won't cut it, at least not in the eyes of idiots and crooks. We must tear something down and let developers put something that's new and more costly up. My God, if we actually refurbished and leased foreclosures we could do what....stop some from going into poverty??? NAAAAAAAH. That idea makes sense. Tear it down, put up something new, let the developers make another killing. Interestingly, paid off talking head for the developers, Stephen Fuller was whining yesterday about the potential job cuts coming up if the Congress doesn't handle sequestration. Yes, the "genius" whose "prophecies" have been just about 100% wrong all the time decided it was time to "speak up" about this doom and gloom scenario which would likely leave office buildings empty and clearly (one would think, anyway) put an abrupt halt to any development. Fuller predicting the economy is about as reasonable as asking pedophiles for child care advice. The only thing that I've learned that "trickles down" in an economy is poverty. Fairfax county development is a scam and the whole county government, every single office and every single person in it need to be scrutinized. Until then, it won't stop.


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