While the Washington Nationals squared off against the New York Mets for their first game in Washington, D.C., of the 2018 Major League Baseball season on April 5, Fairfax County took a step closer to a different kind of home opener as officials broke ground on the future Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter.
Located on Seminary Road only a few blocks down Columbia Pike from the existing shelter, the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter and Supportive Housing is being touted as a state-of-the-art facility that signals a shift in Fairfax County’s approach to addressing homelessness by combining emergency beds with permanent housing.
The facility will have 24-hour staffing, and it will serve as a site for the county’s hypothermia prevention program, which runs from November through March every year in collaboration with nonprofit operators and volunteering faith communities.
With an estimated total project cost of $15.7 million based on the Fairfax County Fiscal Year 2019-2023 Advertised Capital Improvement Program, the Bailey’s shelter is primarily funded by about $12 million from a human services and community development bond approved by voters in a referendum in 2016.
According to Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness program manager Tom Barnett, the 2016 bond referendum included $48 million to renovate or replace four existing shelters. The Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter in Fort Belvoir, the Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Falls Church, and the Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston are under consideration for updates.
The Bailey’s shelter is the first to move forward, but county officials see its mix of emergency beds and permanent housing for those who need supportive services or otherwise face barriers to acquiring and keeping independent housing as a template that future projects will be able to follow.
Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness director Dean Klein describes the new shelter as “a state-of-the-art facility both in concept and design.”
“We have some very old facilities with a lot of wear and tear that weren’t built to accommodate the new models for housing our homeless population,” Klein said. “This new facility will have much better efficiencies of our resources and staff to provide the best care possible to this vulnerable community.”
Fairfax County currently has six emergency shelters for individuals and families, nearly all of which were originally built in the 1980s.
Fairfax County first started to rethink its strategies for addressing homelessness after an annual point-in-time survey conducted in January 2006 counted 2,077 people who were homeless in the county, including 934 single adults and 1,143 people in families.
1,766 people were literally homeless, meaning that they had no permanent, stable place to live, while 311 people lived in supported housing.
The board of supervisors adopted an implementation plan for shifting to this new model in March 2008, setting a goal of ending homelessness in Fairfax County in 10 years.
While acknowledging that more work needs to be done, Fairfax County officials said during the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter and Supportive Housing that the county has made significant progress.
When the board of supervisors adopted the 10-year plan to prevent and end homelessness, the county recorded 1,835 people experiencing homelessness in its 2008 point-in-time count. The most recent point-in-time survey taken on Jan. 25, 2017 found 964 people experiencing homelessness, a 9 percent reduction from the previous year and a decrease of 47 percent from 2008.
“To reduce our homeless population by 47 percent means a whole bunch of people who would otherwise still be homeless are in housing, are working, have jobs, are sober, and making contributions again to society,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who was chairman of the board of supervisors when the 10-year plan was adopted. “These programs actually work.”
Plans to replace the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter have been in the works since 2005 when the developer Weissberg Corp. filed to redevelop the Bailey’s Crossroads area, including the site of the existing shelter.
Though those original plans stalled due to the Great Recession in 2008, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a land swap deal between a real estate investment firm hired by Weissberg Corp. called AvalonBay Communities and the current landowner, Landmark Atlantic LLC, in February 2016.
Since AvalonBay’s plans for a mixed-use neighborhood on the lot did not include room for a homeless shelter, finding a new location for the shelter became a necessity.
Because its leasing agreement with AvalonBay reportedly required that the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter be vacated by Mar. 1, 2017, Fairfax County announced in March 2016 that it hoped to build a temporary shelter on county-owned land behind the Lincolnia Senior Center in Alexandria.
The announcement drew vocal opposition from some residents who raised concerns about the loss of green space and the site’s proximity to the senior center.
“There was a lot of objection to that,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said of the plan for a temporary shelter. “People supported housing the homeless but not anywhere near them.”
Fairfax County’s Mason District encompasses both Bailey Crossroad’s and the Lincolnia area around Alexandria.
Fairfax County announced on July 18, 2016 that it had identified 5914 Seminary Road as a potential permanent site for a new shelter, less than a week after the Stonegate at Landmark Homeowners’ Association filed a lawsuit against the board of supervisors on July 12, 2016.
However, because the permanent shelter was not expected to be ready until late 2020, the county’s announcement did not initially alter its plans to construct a temporary shelter by the Lincolnia Senior Center.
The county got a reprieve from further conflict with residents later that year when AvalonBay terminated the real estate agreement it had negotiated for the property along Moncure Avenue.
Shortly after the end of the AvalonBay contract, the developer Columbia Crossing expressed interest in a similar land-swap deal with Fairfax County that would allow it to acquire a consolidated 4.47-acre property along Moncure Avenue for new housing and office buildings, according to the county.
Fairfax County announced on Mar. 1, 2017 that the board of supervisors had approved the deal with Columbia Crossing, which did not require the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to be vacated until Oct. 31, 2019.
With the county anticipating an opening for Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter and Supportive Housing in late fall 2019, the agreement with Columbia Crossing meant that a temporary shelter would no longer be necessary.
Gross says that finding a permanent site for the new shelter was challenging because of Fairfax County’s diminishing availability of empty space and the unique demands of a homeless shelter facility.
The search for a permanent site took a long time, but Gross says the Seminary Road location is ideal and the county is fortunate it became available when it did.
“You need to have [the shelter] where there is transportation, and there are great bus routes here,” Gross said. “You need to have it where there are services. There are lots of services around here. There are lots of employment opportunities. Shoving it down somewhere where there is nothing, doesn’t help the population you’re trying to assist.”