Arlington VA, Homelessness No Longer in Hiding
Contact: Miriam Gennari, Press Secretary, Virginia Green Party, 703-549-1422, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arlington Green Party should have been celebrating and sharing in the victory as the Arlington County Board took the long awaited first step towards the gaining a new year round emergency shelter last Tuesday, but even as Steve Davis the AGP spokesperson and long time advocate of a year round homeless shelter shared his in support of the proposal, he indicated in no uncertain terms the facility alone is "a necessary, but not fully sufficient measure."
In many cases homelessness is the result of poor mental healthcare in our country. In other cases, it is an extreme circumstance that caught an individual or family unprepared for a job loss or a sudden illness. Regardless of the cause, many issues need to be addressed to get people off the streets and back to a self-supportive situation. Kirit Mookerjee, fellow AGP member has served on the Tenant-Landlord Commission for 3 years. During that time he has worked with both tenants and landlords to keep Arlington's number of homeless down. "It is not easy to afford to live in Arlington." say Mr. Mookerjee, which is why he joined AGP Chairman, John Reeder as a member of the coalition which achieved a living wage ordinance.
That measure, though it does not apply to private companies who are paying far less then the $12.00 entry level pay given to school and county workers, was a big step toward helping keep essential workers in homes in Arlington. When he ran for County Board in 2008 and 2009, Reeder's campaign was dedicated to extending the living wage act to private employers as well. Fifty percent of workers in Arlington who make less then $40,000 live outside the county. Teachers, nurses and civil service workers who remain in the county, often share housing to make ends meet. From 2000 to 2010 Arlington has added 34,000 new jobs to the community. Seven thousand of those jobs have been for low-wage workers, yet the number of affordable housing units has not kept up with demand.
Last year John Reeder, Steve Davis and a young homeless man met with the staff of Congressman Moran. They went with two basic requests. The first was asking him to help to create a green jobs program, so individuals could work their way out of homelessness and develop new skills. The second, was a request for funding to keep the current homeless shelter open year round so there is a primary location from which services could be provided to get the homeless into safe and stable homes. Congressman Moran was so moved by the reasonable petition he then pledged a $300,000 federal grant if the county would keep the winter shelter open year round. Many were stunned when the county refused.
The decision however, by the County Board to acquire the 14th Street North property is only the first step toward the establishment of a year-round shelter, there will be permits and hearing well into the future. "Regardless of how the acquisition of the 14the Street North property plays out, I think that one important outcome of the December 13, Board meeting is that the County is finally on record as being committed to establishing a year-round shelter" said Davis.
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GPVA Press Secretary: Miriam