Community Snapshot: Fairfax-Falls Church, VA

Icon

Community Snapshot | April 4, 2011

Files: PDF | 68 KB | 2 pages

name

Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Falls Church City form an affluent urban community of roughly 1,075,000 people in Northern Virginia, just 20 miles west of Washington, D.C. In 2004, community leaders noted that housing was becoming less affordable and homelessness, especially among families, was a growing problem. In response, the community established the Community Planning Collaborative on Homelessness to study the problem.

In 2005, the community conducted its point-in-time count and found 1,458 people experiencing homelessness. Nearly two-thirds, or 933 people, were members of families, a much higher proportion of the total homeless population than either the Commonwealth of Virginia (40 percent), or the U.S. (41 percent). Subsequently, the Planning Committee to End Homelessness was created, and the group prepared a strategic direction for preventing and eradicating family and overall homelessness.

In 2007, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the ten year plan, Blueprint for Success: Strategic Directions for the Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Four strategies—prevention, preservation of affordable housing, integration of services, and plan implementation— were included in the plan, which were then formally adopted by the County Board in 2008 as part of the Implementation Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The community’s resources were dramatically shifted so that both families and individuals could be assisted through prevention, rapid re-housing, and Housing First strategies. As a result, family homelessness declined by more than 16 percent from 2009 to 2010, and for the first time since 2005 fewer than 900 people in families were homeless in 2010.

Key Initiatives

Two important initiatives have been adopted by the Fairfax-Falls Church community: a focus on permanent housing and a standardized intake screening tool. The success of these initiatives is largely rooted in the continuing work of the Community Partnership, a collaboration of government, faith, business, and nonprofit organizations formed to carry out the Implementation Plan.

A Permanent Housing Approach. The primary strategy envisioned in Blueprint for Success and put into action by the Implementation Plan is to prioritize permanent housing. To carry out this strategy, the County Board tasked the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) with coordinating housing options. Operating since 2009, OPEH has focused on acquiring and maintaining affordable units as well as converting transitional housing to permanent supportive housing for families. During this time, OPEH has helped to preserve many units as affordable and convert many others to permanent housing. This includes converting transitional housing units owned by Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services to 47 units of rapid re-housing and permanent housing for families as part of a program called A-B-C.

Standardized Intake Screening Process. In Fairfax-Falls Church, when an individual or family is in need of social services, including homeless services, their access point is through the Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) System. However, when the Community Partnership assessed the effectiveness of CSP at coordinating homeless assistance services, they found people entered the system at different access points, and providers were all using different intake tools. In response, in 2009 a partnership task group created and implemented a new homeless screening process that standardizes homeless services intake with a focus on prevention, diversion, and re-housing. In this new process, a Housing Targeting Tool is used to help determine what type of housing is best for the needs of the client. The new intake process has led to more efficient and effective coordination and allocation of resources between departments and agencies on homeless services.

Outcomes

In the past year, coinciding with implementation of Blueprint for Success, homelessness has steadily declined in the Fairfax-Falls Church community. After overall homelessness increased by 26 percent between 2005 and 2008, the population decreased by 11 percent between 2009 and 2010 to 1,544 people. Family homelessness decreased at an even sharper rate. After the families population increased by 17 percent from 933 to 1,091 people between 2005 and 2008, the population decreased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2010 to 892 people—the lowest level ever documented in the community. name

Looking Ahead

There is also reason for optimism about future outcome successes in the community due to recently adopted strategies:

  • Housing Opportunities Support Teams (HOST) system —HOST was adopted as an integrated, community-based partnership among government agencies, departments, and providers. A central component to HOST is the Housing Locators Network (HLN), which provides housing counseling and landlord mediation, housing search, and follow-up assistance services. HLN has already been credited with helping to house people who receive housing vouchers much more quickly.
  • Housing Options Committee—In order to track the progress that the Implementation Plan is making toward the affordable housing target of 2,650 new units by 2019, a Housing Options Committee was created to hold the community accountable. The Committee reports to the Governing Board of the Community Partnership.
  • Motel Beds to Transition-in-Place Permanent Housing—As part of a new program, OPEH helped create transition-in-place permanent housing for 5 families. The pilot, started in March 2010 in coordination with a provider of family and individual services, will evaluate the effectiveness of shifting funds spent on motel and shelter beds to transition-in-place beds. The Fairfax-Falls Church community set the goal of ending homelessness by the end of 2018. While it is still early in the ten year plan timeframe, the activities documented here and the reductions in homelessness demonstrate that Fairfax-Falls Church are committed to steadfast implementation of their plan to end homelessness for families and all people in their community.

 

Across the country, communities are making progress in ending homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Community Snapshot Series highlights strategies, programs, and innovations in these communities. Find other community snapshots in the Local Progress section of the website.