Countywide

Federal funding could give needed assist to Fairfax County’s homeless population

Encampment set up by people experiencing homelessness (via MWCOG)

Fairfax County hopes to make use of American Rescue Plan funding to help provide housing for some of those most in need.

In a meeting of the Board of Supervisors Housing Committee last week, staff from the Department of Housing and Community Development said a tranche of federal funding could help local residents in more extreme levels of poverty than most affordable housing programs in the county assist.

“This is a rare funding opportunity specifically targeted to reducing homelessness and can serve populations at the extreme low end of the spectrum,” said Thomas Barnett, deputy director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. “This provides not just housing, but money for supportive services that we know people need.”

Fairfax County was awarded $7.88 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

According to the presentation to the committee:

HOME-ARP funds must be used to primarily benefit individuals or families from the following qualifying populations:

  • Homeless
  • At risk of homelessness
  • Those fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking
  • Other families requiring services or housing assistance to prevent homelessness
  • Households at greatest risk of housing instability

Barnett said there are around 88 permanent supportive housing projects in the pipeline that the nearly $8 million in federal funding could go toward. The funding comes as Fairfax County deals with an uptick in people experiencing homelessness, caused in large part by the pandemic and related economic turmoil.

“Chronic homelessness has increased disproportionately during the pandemic,” Barnett said. “[It’s] up 34% in the last 5 years.”

Even within that category, some supervisors said they’d like to see funding targeted specifically on addressing youth homelessness. The most recent Point-in-Time Count — a survey of people experiencing homelessness in the span of one night — found 91 people between the ages of 18-24 experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County.

“We have, as you point out, a rare funding opportunity with a big infusion of funds,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I’m still troubled by, when we get that Point-in-Time Count, that homeless youth count…I would like more information coming back as to what strategies we might employ to help with that, to use this rare opportunity funding to solve what we know is always a difficult thing to work with under normal circumstances, can any of this be used to accelerate that.”