Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

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Randy Bartlett,

FAQs - Penn Daw Fire Station, Emergency and Supportive Housing

Will there be any change in the Fire and Rescue Department response time in the new location?

There will be some improved response time since the new station allows direct access onto Beacon Hill.

What area does the Penn Daw Fire Station serve?

The first due response area for the Penn Daw Fire Station remains unchanged and is shown in the map below.

FAQ - map Penn Daw


What is the county’s standard response time when an emergency call is received?

Per the National Standards, turnout time (station notification to wheels roll) for EMS calls is 60 seconds and arrival on scene is five minutes. Turnout time for fire suppression calls is 80 seconds with the first units on scene in five minutes and 20 seconds.

What staffing is being planned for the Penn Daw Fire Station?

The fire station is being designed to accommodate 23 staff.

What apparatus are at the current Penn Daw Fire Station and are any new apparatus being provided?

The current apparatus at the fire station are two Medic ALS Units, one Heavy Rescue Unit, one Ladder Unit, one Engine Unit, and one Brush Truck. At this time, no additional equipment is planned; however, the apparatus bays are being designed to accommodate the future needs.

How will traffic be impacted on Beacon Hill Road?

Upgraded emergency vehicle preemption will be installed at the signal at Beacon Hill Road and Route 1, which will improve the impact of emergency response vehicles on traffic on Beacon Hill Road.

How will the site lighting for the facility be controlled?

The project will be designed with full cut-off site light fixtures, which will prevent light trespass on the adjacent properties.

What other community services are provided at the Penn Daw Fire Station?

In addition to the annual Fire Station Open House, the community events held at the station include the back-to-school backpack distribution, coat distribution, and holiday gift distribution.

What security measures are planned?

The following standards and best practices will be included in the facility:

  • Security cameras.
  • Access control system.
  • Duress alarms.
  • Internal and external security checks conducted every 30 minutes.
  • Strong and cooperative relations with the Fairfax County Police and Fire Departments.

Is Fairfax County trying to prevent and end homelessness?

Homelessness is a national, statewide, and local challenge that is in virtually every community. In response to this challenge, in the early 2000’s communities across the country developed plans to stop managing homelessness and actually end it. The Fairfax-Falls Church community, including government, nonprofit, and other partners, developed a plan in 2008 that was adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. It identified strategies needed to end homelessness locally. It focused on preventing homelessness whenever possible, increasing the supply of affordable housing, integrating services to support people’s housing stability, and creating a system of accountability. In October 2020 the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness published its latest strategic plan, which reiterates the national goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.

According to the latest published Point in Time count results, there were 1,041 people who were homeless in Fairfax County on the night of January 22, 2020. This represents a one percent increase from the year before and an eight percent increase over three years. Over the course of the 12 months ending September 30, 2020, there were 2,647 people who resided in emergency housing across the county (not including the dedicated domestic violence housing). Of all the people entering emergency housing during the year, 66 percent did not have entries into emergency housing, transitional housing, or permanent housing programs dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness in the prior 24 months.

Why was the Beacon Hill location selected?

The location on Beacon Hill Road allows first responders direct access to emergencies in the community. The selected site also integrates individuals who are homeless into an area with access to public transportation and employment opportunities.

Funding for an emergency and supportive housing was approved in the 2016 Human Services and Community Development Bond Referendum; however, a suitable location had not been identified. When the Hybla Valley Nursery site became available, the county recognized an opportunity to co-locate the new fire station with the emergency and supportive housing in a new, modern facility. Co-locating services align with the county’s One Fairfax and Diversity First objectives.

How many emergency and supportive housing facilities does Fairfax County operate? Where are they located?

Fairfax County operates nine emergency and three supportive housing facilities for people experiencing homelessness. Three emergency housing locations are operated in South County: the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter and Mondloch House for adults and the Next Steps Family Program for families with children. Two emergency housing facilities are located in the eastern part of the county, one with permanent supportive housing: the Patrick Henry Family Shelter for families with children and the Baileys Shelter and Supportive Housing. One emergency housing facility in the northern part of the county serves both adults and families with children, the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. The central and western reaches of the county are served by the Katherine Hanley Family Shelter for families with children. The two Artemis House shelters for people fleeing domestic violence are at undisclosed locations due to safety reasons. One is located in the Western part of the County, and one in the Southern part of the County.

Additional emergency housing capacity is created during the winter months, December through March, by using floor space at county offices and other spaces to support the Hypothermia Prevention Program. Hotels are being used during the pandemic to isolate individuals that have tested positive with the COVID-19 virus; quarantine individuals who were exposed to positive individuals or are symptomatic and waiting for test results; provide protective housing for individuals at risk of serious illness if infected; and overflow emergency housing to reduce crowding in congregate emergency housing and meeting new demand.

Why are we building new emergency housing for individuals who are experiencing homelessness?

The county is working on a new generation of facilities for our homeless community. The county is changing how we prevent and end homelessness. We have some very old facilities with lots of wear and tear that weren’t built to accommodate the new models for housing our homeless population. The new Beacon Hill location will have much more efficient resources and staff to provide the best care possible to this vulnerable community.

How many days do people stay in emergency housing?

The average individual's length of stay at the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter in Fiscal Year 2020 was 77 days.

What do occupants do between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.?

During the day clients go to work, attend medical appointments, conduct housing and employment searches, and travel to a variety of other vital community services. Residents are offered transportation to local resources. If residents choose to stay on-site during the day, a variety of services are available there to promote individuals’ return to housing stability.

While on site, emergency housing guests can meet with their housing case manager, receive visits from other supportive service entities like mental health workers, nurse practitioners, employment specialists, etc., use the computer, and meet their basic needs, like eating, showering, doing their laundry, and resting. Emergency housing guests are neither confined to the building nor required to leave. Staff support guests’ ability to manage their own schedules and provide the assistance necessary to help them achieve their goals. Guests generally spend daytime hours out of their dorm rooms, unless otherwise necessary, to encourage productivity when possible.

How are emergency housing facilities typically staffed?

The Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter is operated by New Hope Housing and supported by several Fairfax County agencies, primarily the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness in the Department of Housing and Community Development. At least two staff are on duty at all times, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with additional staff and volunteers at different hours. During the daytime hours, there are up to 21 staff members on-site, including case managers, administrative staff, and volunteers. Volunteers provide a great deal of support to the emergency housing facility. In 2019, approximately 500 volunteers served more than 5,000 hours at the Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter.

What is the policy on drug and alcohol use?

The use of alcohol and illegal drugs is not permitted on emergency housing property. Residents will have the opportunity to receive treatment for substance abuse issues during their stay. As a safety precaution, all residents are subject to breathalyzer and urinalysis if they present signs and symptoms of alcohol and/or drug use. This is to ensure staff is aware of anyone who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol so that they can provide appropriate oversight and supervision to ensure the emergency housing residents’ health and safety throughout their stay.

Emergency housing facilities utilize a trauma-informed service approach, which takes into account how substance use can be associated with experiences of trauma, including experiencing homelessness, and promotes an environment of healing and recovery rather than practices that may inadvertently re-traumatize individuals. For this reason, intoxication by itself is not grounds for termination, unless the intoxication is associated with behaviors that present an immediate threat to the health and safety for themselves or others. If emergency housing guests are found using drugs or alcohol on the property, staff will address the behaviors first before resorting to a termination and leaving someone unsheltered in the community.

What other locations were considered for the emergency and supportive housing?

An initial list of 12 potential sites was identified for the emergency and supportive housing facility:  

  1. Another location on Fort Belvoir
  2. 8145 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22309
  3. 7927 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria
  4. 7511 Fordson Road
  5. 8135 Richmond Hwy
  6. 8131 Richmond Hwy
  7. 9190 Richmond Hwy
  8. 9140 Richmond Hwy
  9. 5801 North Kings Hwy
  10. 6624 Hulvey Terrace
  11. 8656 Richmond Hwy
  12. Lorton Town Center

The alternative site search was focused along Route 1 because a need for an emergency and permanent supportive housing facility has been identified in the Lee and Mount Vernon District especially along the Route 1 corridor. While the existing Eleanor Kennedy Shelter is being utilized to address these needs, it is a hundred-year-old facility which was originally a water pump station, lies within a floodplain, is in need of significant repairs and cannot accommodate the addition of permanent supportive housing units. Hence, alternative sites were considered for replacement of the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter which could accommodate the addition of permanent supportive housing units and provide better access to public transportation for emergency housing occupants.

What will the process be for community engagement? How will the results/questions/answers from those meetings be communicated back to the public?

The Penn Daw Fire Station and Supportive Housing Advisory Committee has been established which includes members from nearby communities, public safety representatives, faith community and affordable/emergency housing providers, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Association, the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Fort Belvoir and county staff. The Advisory Committee has been meeting every month since November 2020. The role of the committee members is to provide information about the project to their individual community groups and seek feedback. County staff is planning larger community-wide meetings in Spring of 2021, which will be advertised on the project website. Frequently Asked Questions based on those received from the Advisory Committee, citizens, and community associations, will be posted and updated continually on the project website. Questions from future larger community meetings will be collected and responded to in follow-up meetings and posted on the project website.

Why is affordable housing being added to the uses on the Beacon Hill site?

In line with the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan, the Beacon Hill site presents an opportunity to further the continuum of housing by including an affordable housing component at the site.

What is the definition of Permanent Supportive Housing and Affordable Housing?

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) means community-based housing without a designated length of stay in which supportive services are provided to assist homeless persons with a disability to live independently. Typically, PSH is prioritized for individuals with the longest lengths of homelessness and greatest vulnerability due to complicated physical and mental health conditions.

Affordable Housing is affordable when renters and homeowners can pay their housing expenses and have sufficient income left for food, transportation, childcare, medical and other necessities. Mathematically speaking, housing is considered “affordable” when monthly rent, utilities and insurance are between 30 and 40 percent of the household’s gross income.

Who qualifies for affordable housing at this project?

The project will serve 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or below. Low-to-Moderate Income Households are generally defined to be those earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or below as indicated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In fiscal year 2020, 60 percent of AMI for a family of four in Fairfax County was $75,600 and the maximum rent for that household in a three bedroom would be $1,965. The upper range of the "moderate income" band extends to 80 percent AMI ($79,600 for a family of four).

What is the distribution of affordable housing across the County?

As part of the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan, Fairfax County is committed to producing and preserving affordable homes. The county has adopted the goal of producing a minimum of 5,000 new homes over the next 15 years - known as “5k by 15.” The chart below, available online at Fairfax County Affordable Housing Dashboard, indicates progress towards this goal as well as projects in the pipeline throughout the county.

dashboard - penn daw


How will the County manage to mitigate noise between the fire station and the other building residents?

Noise mitigation techniques such as additional layer of concrete padding between the floors, special window and frame design, additional insulation, and selective material selection will be evaluated for incorporation as the design progresses.

Can another use, such as a park, be located at the Beacon Hill site?

The current site utilization proposal includes Penn Daw Fire Station, Eleanor Kennedy Emergency and Supportive Housing, and affordable housing. Green space requirements and considerations will be evaluated as the site design progresses with the final determined uses on site.

What are the plans and policies to protect the surrounding community? Will guests be vetted prior to staying at the emergency housing?

The goal of emergency housing programs is to contribute to the health and safety of residents, staff, volunteers, and the greater neighborhood. To that end, guests at the emergency housing facility review program guidelines with an intake worker and their case manager at admission. The guidelines include expectations for being a good neighbor and not engaging in dangerous behaviors. Emergency housing staff also collaborate with Fairfax County public safety departments, including Fire and Rescue and Police, to address specific concerns.

Other county emergency housing facilities are also in a semi-residential neighborhood. How do they deal with their neighborhood's concerns about the conduct of their residents?

The facility staff are responsive to feedback from the community and are committed to do everything possible to be good neighbors. Outreach workers regularly engage with people experiencing homelessness outside of the emergency housing facility, who may or may not be participating in the emergency housing program. They also work collaboratively with the Community Services Board’s mental health outreach team to engage unsheltered individuals and connect them to emergency housing and other services.

What are the criteria for the waiting list for an emergency housing bed? Are Fairfax County residents prioritized? Also, are both emergency housing and permanent supportive housing offered to non-citizens?

Individuals who are part of an adult-only household must call one of the three designated emergency housing facilities to request a bed: Baileys, Kennedy or Rucker. Individuals are assessed using a standardized tool for a variety of factors, including their likelihood to die if unsheltered, that determines their prioritization for a bed. Individuals may have to wait for a bed to be vacant, at which point an emergency housing or outreach worker will contact them.

Fairfax County residents are prioritized over residents from other jurisdictions for access to a bed. Residency is determined through a previously established connection to the county (benefits, previous address, healthcare services or schools, as examples) or where they report to be sleeping. Emergency housing does not request or require citizenship documentation for entry. Permanent supportive housing generally does not require citizenship documentation, though certain federal funding sources may require it for eligibility.

Are there any drop-in or day programs at emergency housing facilities? What happens to those that show up for drop-in services during off hours?

Drop-in services are available at the existing Eleanor Kennedy Shelter for people to obtain assistance meeting some of their basic needs including showers, laundry and food. People can also meet with a case manager during drop-in hours. During the winter season, the emergency housing facility is available seven days a week for drop-in support. In the non-winter months, drop-in is typically available three to four days a week. If someone presents at the facility during off hours, staff will still greet them, identify their needs, and determine how they can assist. Between six and ten people per day will come to the shelter during the winter season and fewer in the warmer months.

What measures are in place to prevent people from loitering outside of the emergency and supportive housing facility grounds?

Emergency housing staff will engage those who are not in the facility and try to assist them in identifying needs and will invite them inside to receive services on-site or provide needed assistance to receive services at other locations. The facility has a variety of programming opportunities to keep participants engaged throughout the day in addressing a variety of topics including employment and housing opportunities, training and professional development, and health and well-being.

Staff maintain an active partnership with local law enforcement to assist, as appropriate, should individuals be found to be breaking the law on-site or within the community.

What environmental factors will be considered in placing a new facility at the mostly undeveloped Beacon Hill site?

Per county policy, all building projects over 10,000 square feet are required to pursue achievement of LEED Gold. The project will pursue this requirement at the Beacon Hill site along with all other county sustainability goals.

In addition, in accordance with the Board’s vision for environmental quality, efforts will be taken to manage the stormwater generated by the development and develop the site in a responsible manner. At a minimum, the project will be designed to meet federal, state, and local regulatory requirements for stormwater quality and detention. Though the current Hybla Valley nursery site does not contain the magnitude of developed structures that would be proposed, it also does not contain existing stormwater management practices.

Has the transportation impact to Beacon Hill Road and Route 1 been considered for the development? Also, how will the development fit in with the proposed transportation and infrastructure plans for Route 1?

As development commences into design, a study will be conducted to analyze the potential impacts of the proposed development and account for them in the design.

The upcoming improvements envisioned along Richmond Highway with the Embark project allow for quick access to rapid transit. The future vision of the Comprehensive Plan for this area of Richmond Highway includes commercial and business zones that will provide employment opportunities.

How does the proposed development fit within the context of the surrounding neighborhood?

The Comprehensive Plan identifies the Beacon/Groveton Community Business Center (CBC) as the focal point for the Richmond Highway Corridor. This CBC is expected to become the most urban and densely developed of all the CBC’s on the corridor. The Beacon Hill site is uniquely positioned within the transition zone between the future of urban development surrounding the Embark Richmond Highway Corridor and the adjacent residential neighborhoods. The mix of services proposed at the site could serve as an appropriate gateway from the CBC planned along Route 1 into the neighborhood.

What will happen to the site of the existing Penn Daw Fire Station once it has been replaced at the Beacon Hill Site?

A use has not been determined for the existing Penn Daw Fire Station once it has been replaced with a new station at the Beacon Hill site. Also, funding has not been allocated for a project that could be located at the existing fire station site. The county will evaluate best uses and will consider community feedback for potential uses.

What is the need for supportive housing in the Mt Vernon and Lee districts?

A primary indicator of the need for permanent supportive housing is the number of people who are experiencing chronic homelessness in the community. In the 2020 Point in Time Count of people experiencing literal homelessness, there were a total of 41 chronically homeless households identified in Human Services Region 1, which encompasses most of the Mt. Vernon and Lee supervisory districts.

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