Arlington County Takes Over Emergency Winter Shelter Operations

I found this recent news release interesting. Apparently A-SPAN mouthed off a little about the quality of the shelter so the County decided to kick them to the curb. What do you think about this issue? I think bad-mouthing the facility you are supposed to be running is pretty irresponsible.

From the Arlington County Web Site:

The Arlington County Department of Human Services (DHS) will take over day-to-day operation of the community’s Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS) effective today, Mon., Feb. 4.

The County terminated its contract with the Arlington Street People’s Network (A-SPAN) to operate and provide services at the facility, which is located near Courthouse Metro.

“No disruption of services will occur,” said DHS Director Susanne Eisner. “The Emergency Winter Shelter will remain open, safe, and available to meet the emergency wintertime needs of homeless persons in the community.”

Contract termination
Arlington County terminated the contract after A-SPAN informed the County that it intended to terminate the contract. In addition, in recent days, Arlington’s DHS officials became increasingly concerned over A-SPAN’s operation of the shelter. “When A-SPAN made irresponsible statements, saying that homeless persons are better off sleeping outside than in the EWS, we lost faith in their ability and willingness to run the shelter,” commented Eisner.

Inspections last week performed by the Arlington County Fire Marshal and the Arlington County building inspectors found that the EWS is safe and meets all building codes.

Volunteers of America
Department of Human Services staff will be operating the EWS directly for a few days until Weds., Feb. 6, when Volunteers of America (VOA) will can take over for the rest of the winter season. VOA, which operates the County’s primary homeless shelter, is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive human services organizations, serving more than 2 million people each year in more than 400 communities in 44 states.

“Arlington County is committed to helping the homeless rebuild their lives and find permanent housing,” said Eisner, “and is committed to sheltering any homeless person who needs a safe place to spend the night through the winter season.”

Arlington’s Approach to Addressing Homelessness
The County’s goal is to provide comprehensive services and tools to help individuals and families out of homelessness. In 2006, the County Board adopted a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The plan provides a framework for preventing and combating homelessness, focusing on strategies, evidence-based best practices and actions that include prevention, transitional and permanent housing and access to training and jobs.

The Emergency Winter Shelter provides a place to sleep during the winter to homeless persons who choose not to participate in the programs offered by Arlington’s year-round shelters. It is one piece of the County’s multi-layered approach to the problem of homelessness. In fiscal year 2008, more than $2 million of Arlington County’s budget was devoted to services for the homeless.

The County, in partnership with non-profit organizations, offers a variety of shelters serving singles, families and battered women:

  • Residential Program Center – With beds for up to 44 single adults, this year-round emergency shelter, owned by the County, requires clients to participate in a case management program designed to help them address personal problems, locate permanent housing and find jobs. Persons with disabilities are helped to secure income and housing through existing mainstream resources.
  • Emergency shelter for battered and homeless women and their families – an 11-bed facility that provides case management programs to protect women and their children from abusive living situations, and to assist homeless women and families by helping them develop plans leading to safe, self-sufficient living. It operates through an agreement with the Doorways for Women and Families, Inc.
  • Emergency shelter for families – a 21-bed facility that provides shelter and case management services to homeless families. It operates through an agreement with the Doorways for Women and Families, Inc.
  • Emergency shelter for families – a 50-bed facility in a County-owned building that provides shelter and case management services to homeless families. It operates through an agreement with the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, Inc.

1 Comment so far

  1. Don (unregistered) on February 4th, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

    I guess you didn’t see the Washington Post article on this matter last week. While the shelter folk might have engaged in a little hyperbole – though that "better off outside" doesn’t appear in the WaPo article – they don’t sound like they’re griping about unreasonable things.

    An elevator broken for a month (only fixed, coincidentally, the week a negative newspaper article ran), insufficient bathroom facilities, and a dining room so constrained that people in their 70s are asked to eat in 10 minutes sounds pretty grim to me.

    And really, responding to concerns about people potentially injured by bunk beds with the statement that they’re "not ideal but that homeless people at some shelters sleep on mattresses on the floor" strikes me as pretty lame.

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