Annual Homeless Count Encouraging but not an Invitation for Complacency
Cornerstones is proud to announce—alongside our partners in the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness—that the 2016 Point-In-Time (PIT) count reveals a 12% decline in the number of people who were literally homeless (145 fewer people) in our community this January 2016 when compared to the January 2015 count.
This point-in-time report represents a snapshot of a steady decline in homelessness in the Fairfax-Falls Church region since the implementation of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in 2008. Since that time, we have seen a 42% total decrease in homelessness, indicating significant success in housing our community’s most vulnerable, and providing real hope for a stable future for those we serve.
The Embry Rucker Community Shelter operated by Cornerstones, is a 70-bed emergency shelter serving families with children, and single adult men and women. In our fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, Cornerstones assisted 31 families (totaling 101 individuals) and 95 single adults (as well as 6 hypothermia clients) at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter with the supports they needed to locate and obtain stable housing. This number represents 71% of the families and 50% of single men and women who were participating in our Rapid Re-Housing program—on target or exceeding county goals. At six months into our current fiscal year, 16 families (totaling 31 individuals) and 65 single adult men and women have moved out of shelter into stable housing.
This is great news, and demonstrates that focused effort and strategies around homelessness prevention, shelter diversion and rapid re-housing are successful in getting us closer to the goal of a “functional” end to homelessness in our community. Simply defined—that there are housing options for those who are homeless, and that the number of people coming into homelessness is less than the number of people exiting to transitional or permanent housing during a given period of time.
Tight funding at the federal, state and local levels as well as reduction in funds from housing-focused foundations have forced affordable housing developers, government agencies and nonprofit organizations to consolidate rapid re-housing efforts and be creative with limited funding—to work smarter. The Fairfax-Falls Church partnership has taken that challenge seriously while maintaining high impact, as is shown in the Point-in-Time results.
While the approach and the results are good news, it should not be taken as an invitation for complacency. Shelter Case Managers and housing locators face real challenges in helping these individuals identify and secure safe and affordable housing for themselves and their families. Their creativity and advocacy for their clients goes only so far when you consider the landscape of challenges that confront their clients.
An insufficient supply of affordable housing and a tight rental market puts those with past debt or history of eviction, poor credit or limited income at a disadvantage. Additionally, Fairfax County is falling behind in the housing production that will be necessary to serve the future workforce. According to George Mason study, over 40,000 new housing units will be needed by 2023 to serve the workforce. Of that growth, 44% will be households earning less than the Area Median Income (AMI), who will be able to afford monthly rents of no more than $1,250. Currently, an average 2 bedroom apartment at market rate is over $1,700 per month in Fairfax County. For this reason, Cornerstones will continue to fight for funding for supportive services and permanent supportive housing options for Fairfax’s most vulnerable citizens and will encourage our local legislators to take steps to increase production of housing to serve our region’s housing needs for our current and future workforce.