In 2019 a new partnership was initiated between the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) to benefit the environment and provide assistance for individuals experiencing homelessness. Operation Stream Shield provided part-time, temporary work experience to guests of the Eleanor U. Kennedy Community Shelter, Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter, and The Lamb Center to help improve the water quality of local streams.
Operation Stream Shield plays a critical role in the lives of participants who are experiencing homelessness by providing a nominal stipend, developing workforce skills that enable them to better compete for potential jobs, and helping them pursue a positive trajectory towards improving their circumstances.
“Being able to say, ‘I’m going to work today’ really lifted my spirits and gave me a sense of accomplishment for the day and the week,” said Samuel A. of his participation in the Operation Stream Shield program. “There’s no better feeling than saying ‘I HAVE A JOB.’”
The program also helps the county meet its mandate to keep streams clean through the removal of litter and non-native invasive plant species, maintenance of the county’s pedestrian trail system, providing assistance to the county’s Noman M. Cole, Jr., Pollution Control Plant, I66 Transfer Station, and the I95 Landfill Complex, and engaging in assigned special projects as they become available.
Due to the success of the pilot and positive engagement from the community, the county took steps to ensure Operation Stream Shield became a permanent program in 2020 and added the Embry Rucker Shelter as a partner.
What to Expect
When an Operation Stream Shield crew arrives at a location, they will be wearing high visibility vests with Operation Stream Shield printed on the back. All crew members have been trained on proper safety protocols by their respective shelter and will be accompanied by a team lead. A sign to notify traffic in the immediate area of a crew removing debris will be placed before or after the vehicle to ensure the safety of the crew.
Operation Stream Shield crews are working hard and will be taking short breaks to hydrate and refuel. The crew leader will designate an area for members to take these breaks.
With a few exceptions, volunteers are permitted to work alongside crews, but please coordinate with the county beforehand by emailing DPWESSTW-OSS@fairfaxcounty.gov.
Staff from the county’s Stormwater Planning Division (SWPD), Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), National Park Service (NPS) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) work together to identify litter hotspots in need of a cleanup. The non-profit operators of the shelters New Hope Housing, The Lamb Center, and Cornerstones approve participants, provide transportation, supervise their work, and track and report the number of bags of litter filled during each outing. The Solid Waste Management Program collects and disposes of the full bags of litter and any bulky items collected during the cleanup once per week.
Additionally, FCPA and NPS assist in identifying non-native plant species and teach guests plant identification and removal practices. To provide opportunities for the participants to develop and enhance useful skills for future employment, NPS and DPWES will identify special projects throughout the county.
Fairfax County’s stormwater system discharges to state waters through regulated outfalls. Federal and state laws require the county to apply for and maintain a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The goal of the permit is to reduce the discharge of polluted stormwater to streams and to prevent anything other than rain or melted snow from entering the stormwater system, to the maximum extent practicable. Operation Stream Shield is funded by the Stormwater Service District fee established by the Board of Supervisors in 2010 to support environmental mandates, such as those that protect local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
Operation Stream Shield supplements Fairfax County’s existing litter collection efforts achieved through the coordinated efforts of multiple county agencies, including FCPA, Fairfax County Public Schools, VDOT, the Sheriff’s Department, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Clean Fairfax, and volunteers from other faith-based, civic, and environmental organizations.
The program aligns with the county’s equity policy, One Fairfax, that states, “…all residents deserve an equitable opportunity to succeed – regardless of their race, color, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, disability, income, or where they live.”