Homelessness in Perspective
This week, a man died in the woods in Reston. He appears to have died of natural causes. He was “known” in our homeless community and he will be missed.
When a tragedy like this occurs, it really brings home to us that our Cornerstones’ mission is more than just the facts we share, more than just the “walk” we will take together on Sunday at Festival on the Square.
Last year, Fairfax County providers and volunteers spent time documenting the stories and needs of people who are faced with the unthinkable choice of living on the streets. I learned that a majority of individuals living unsheltered on the streets TODAY will die within 5 years—the cumulative effect of prolonged exposure to the elements; at some point it’s just too much. Conversely, a majority of those who can be relocated to appropriate housing can recover their health and live stably and successfully with the types of support we provide.
WHAT PEOPLE NEED IS A HOME. Despite a relatively small homeless population for a county our size, we are not collectively honoring the commitment we made in the Fairfax County Ten Year Plan, or pursuing the government, political or community changes that would enable us to really make a dent in this problem.
But we do fight an uphill battle. Sequestration stripped us of tools that help low-income working families, seniors and those with disabilities afford housing in this high cost of living area – leaving 40 individuals and families stuck in shelter or on the streets. A proposed zoning change in Fairfax County that would permit the building of efficiency apartments in appropriate locations after open public review has been misunderstood and linked with unrelated concerns about “boarding houses” and overcrowding—something caused by the lack of affordable housing and that could be mitigated if we had enough homes.
We know what to do. We know what is working with your support. And at Cornerstones we are grateful for the support of a community that has helped us address these challenges. Real options for our neighbors…working together.
– Kerrie B. Wilson