Fairfax County is joining a national initiative to provide housing to the area’s chronically homeless population.
During a meeting of the Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee this week, representatives from the county’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness detailed the struggles of people who live on the streets and in the woods of Fairfax County.
About 350 people in the county face chronic homelessness. That’s an increase of more than 100 people since 2010, said Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
These residents have been homeless for years and have had no success with other county programs, said Klein. In many cases, the county’s chronically homeless suffer from serious mental and physical health problems, he said.
That’s why the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness is joining the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national initiative to find homes for 100,000 chronically homeless across the United States by July 2014.
County officials hope to house 50 people a year over the next three years and are seeking volunteers for “Registry Week” in late February. Klein said his office plans to recruit about 200 volunteers.
Volunteers will create profiles of the county’s homeless population for a photographic registry, gathering their stories and putting a “real face” to the issue.
The profiles will also help human services officials decipher what kind of help each person needs, said Tom Barnett, program manager for the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.
The project will not be without its challenges, officials said.
Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said it might be difficult to get some homeless people dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues to accept help.
“We need to address those issues,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy to get folks to agree to leave the woods.”
Supervisor Michael Frey agreed, apprehensive to spend so many resources on those in need of the most help instead of families who could be helped more with less.
“We may be expending a lot of money … where there is a better chance of success in other areas,” Frey said.
Barnett, who worked chronically homeless people in Richmond before coming to Fairfax County, was confident that there was something the county could do for them, no matter how difficult it might be.
“I’ve seen it work and I know it can work in this community,” he said.