Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova's Remarks - Jan. 21 Community Forum on Homelessness
Good afternoon. It’s my pleasure to welcome you here to today’s Community Forum on Homelessness. I am happy to see so many people representing a diverse range of groups. I understand there were a record number of people at the last community forum and I see from the participation today that the reports were not an exaggeration. If you take a quick look around the room you’ll see that we have represented here:
- Representatives from government agencies,
- Members of the faith-based community,
- Area non-profits and
- Members of the Governing Board for the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness
Our audience at the forum here today demonstrates the impressive collaboration across our community to prevent and end homelessness.
This is a particularly appropriate time of year to meet. January is traditionally a time to reflect on the previous year and make plans (or resolutions) about what we wish to accomplish in the year ahead. Last year, we made some significant changes in our approach to the challenges of affordable housing. You will hear more this afternoon abut how we will continue those efforts this year.
Last year was a year of significant changes. As many of you know, the Board of Supervisors was faced some very challenging budget decisions as we considered the Budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
Due to the declining real estate tax revenue caused by the economic downturn, the worst in most of our lifetimes, our Board had to find ways to close a projected deficit of $648 million, or 19% of the total budget.
Thanks to the constructive engagement of our residents and employees, (using a new process of Community Dialogues held throughout the County) our Board was able to close this gap with a unanimously approved budget that kept tax bills steady for the average county tax payer while managing to preserve the quality of life that people value in Fairfax County.
During the budget process, our affordable housing programs and strategies were a key topic of discussion. Budget Guidelines at “Mark-up” of the Advertised Budget called for a discussion to take place on this subject at a Board Retreat, which took place last June.
At our Retreat on June 29th and 30th, our Board mapped out a strategy to address our Affordable Housing needs and challenges of today. During the months ahead, County staff and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee worked to develop a new Blue Print for Affordable Housing, which was presented in our Board’s Housing Committee on Tuesday of this week.
The principle goals identified in the Blue Print are:
- To End Homelessness in Ten Years, consistent with our Board’s current Goal approved in March of ‘08
- To Provide Affordable Housing Options to Special Needs Populations
- To Reduce the Waiting Lists for Affordable Housing (currently at over 12,000) by Half in Ten Years
- To produce workforce housing sufficient to accommodate projected job growth. This should be accomplished through the Development process and policies, and through Partnerships with the private sector.
These are ambitious goals, but they represent key needs in our community that should be met. The development of this Blue Print is particularly exciting because it is the product of unprecedented collaboration among numerous county agencies, board appointed commissions, the faith-based community and area non-profits to pool resources and address the housing needs of our community in a holistic approach.
The Blue Print provides a short and long term plan structure for our affordable housing programs and integrates these services with the goals of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.
In the context of our forum today, I will focus primarily on the goal of Ending Homelessness in Ten Years, but it is worth noting that issues with housing affect a broad range of county residents and we need to recognize all of our housing needs throughout this range in order to make it possible for the people who work in Fairfax County to have an opportunity to live and raise their families here.
Homelessness presents a unique set of challenges to our community and it will take collaboration and cooperation from everyone here today, as well as the greater community, to meet the goals we set out in the Ten Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Our Community Partnership made significant progress in 2009:
- we created the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness;
- hired Dean Klein as its Executive Director;
- formed a Governing Board for the Community Partnership, which I am honored to serve on, (along with Supervisor Cathy Hudgins) with Michael O’Reilly as Chair;
- and, in collaboration with groups throughout the community, we have developed and implemented the Housing Opportunities Support Team (or HOST) program.
In short, we have begun to implement the Ten Year Plan and we have new programs that are already helping people avoid becoming homeless.
As you may have seen in Dean’s last Partner Update, the HOST program has helped divert 163 people from 58 unique households from homelessness in the first 29 days of operation.
Under the HOST program, we have case managers and Housing Locators who can help pull together the resources needed to keep residents in their homes, or identify new opportunities for households looking for a home. The HOST program has been designed to insure that these services are available throughout the community and are flexible enough to meet the specific needs of clients.
Considering the economic challenges many local residents are facing, the HOST results are very impressive and come in a time of great need. 2009 was an auspicious year for our Partnership and these accomplishments would not be possible without the efforts and participation of the groups gathered here today.
As Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and as a member of the Governing Board of the Partnership, I know that by working together, we will build on this foundation and enjoy even greater success in 2010.
Going forward in 2010, our “resolutions” are both short and long term. Under the Ten Year Plan to end Homelessness and the Housing Blue Print, we will see the partnership continue to expand and to re-tool current services to insure that our programs work in concert.
- refining our case management system and programs to identify and deliver needed services most effectively;
- focusing and leveraging diverse resources on common goals;
- and, like today’s forum, sharing best practices and improving collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Based on the Ten Year Plan and the most recent “Point in Time” survey, we have set a goal of providing a total of 2,650 additional units or permanent housing opportunities for homeless individuals and families over the next ten years.
For FY2011, we are aiming to provide housing and supportive services to 196 households; 68 of those individuals and 128 of them families. We will meet this goal through collaboration across county agencies and with our non-profit partners.
By re-focusing existing resources and dedicating them to Housing First objectives like permanent supportive housing and project-based vouchers, and by teaming with non-profits and the building industry, our resources will be able serve more people who have the greatest need for assistance. Stable housing should also magnify the success of support programs.
Under the Blue Print and the Ten Year Plan, we have milestones and numerical targets to track our progress, and the early numbers from the HOST program suggest we are on the right track. We will continue to monitor the success of our programs and make adjustments to insure we are meeting our goals and serving the needs of the community.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone here today and the organizations you represent. Without your dedication, determination and compassion, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and where we WILL BE tomorrow. By working together, we have already made impressive progress on the goals set out in the Ten Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and I look forward to our continuing success in 2010 and beyond.