A year after embarking on a mission to get Fairfax County’s chronically homeless residents into housing, nonprofit staff and volunteers gathered in Fairfax on Wednesday to throw a housewarming party for 18 people who now live in apartments instead of campsites in the woods.
Through the 100,000 Homes Campaign, county and nonprofit leaders have moved 45 chronically homeless people into housing, just a few shy of the goal of 50 people in the first year.
“We didn’t just go out and make a registry. We created a plan, we took action,” said Amanda Andere, executive director of the Fairfax-based nonprofit Facets, which secured the housing for the latest 18 to receive housing assistance.
Sandara Perry said her new apartment is “a blessing.” The 29-year-old Fairfax County native said she has chronic health problems due to being the child of an addicted mother and has struggled to find her footing since aging out of foster care, at times sleeping in the woods after leaving an abusive spouse.
Now, Perry says, she wants to help others.
“I am trying to do the best that I can,” she said. “I’m trying to show people that there is still hope.”
Last year, teams of volunteers went out in the wee hours of the morning, combing wooded areas, visiting winter emergency shelters and checking parking lots for people sleeping in cars.
They interviewed 462 people, gathering information about their health, employment status and basic demographic information. They used these interviews to create a database of the most vulnerable segment of the chronically homeless population — people who are at a high risk of dying due to their living situation.
As nonprofit groups are able to secure funding to support housing for these individuals, the database helps prioritize needs among the homeless population.
Facets was able to secure a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to provide housing for 18 people at an apartment complex in the city of Fairfax. The effort also received support from local faith-based organizations, Andere said.
Many of the newly housed clients are medically fragile and will be able to receive regular nursing care now that they have a home, Andere said. They also will have the support of a Facets case manager who will evaluate their other needs and connect them with services.
David Vernon, another Facets client helped through the 100,000 Homes Campaign, has been living in his apartment, furnished with donated items, for nearly a month after 10 years spent living in his van or at a campsite in the woods.
“It took me about three weeks to adjust to having keys,” he said.
Like Perry, Vernon has dealt with chronic health problems that affect his ability to work. Now that he has a place to live and is receiving more regular medical care, he hopes to begin working again and eventually support himself.
“It’s like having a second chance,” Vernon said.