Fairfax County officials and volunteers counted 462 homeless living outdoors during the recently completed Registry Week, part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign to track homeless individuals and their progress in finding permanent housing.
More than 200 volunteers scoured the woods and other hidden areas of the county last week in order to count, photograph, and get names and histories of the county's homeless.
The results helped create a registery local agencies can use in the future to measure the progress on the fight to end homelessness, officials said.
Reston Interfaith CEO Kerrie Wilson said she saw great honesty from those living outdoors.
"I was struck by the differences in talking with someone in their 'home' – in their space versus when we are in shelter and other settings where we must set the rules," she said Monday at a Registry Week media event. "Survey teams and clients were respectful of one another. There was a sense of pride from those homeless interviewed when they showed volunteers their campsites."
Organizers, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and other Board of Supervisors members, released key findings on Monday. Among them:
- Nearly a quarter were between 18-34 years old
- The largest number of interviewees (151) were found in the Route 1 corridor
- More than three-quarters of interviewees were male
- “Unable to pay rent/utilities” and “job loss” were by far the most cited reasons for homelessness
- 10 percent were veterans
- Nearly half were employed
- 40 percent had a physical disability.
"We learned that chronic homelessness comes in many forms for many reasons and each story is unique and each solution is unique but that all solutions require stable affordable housing and supports and people who care," said Pam Michell, Executive Director of New Hope Housing.
Fairfax County has about 2,900 homeless — of which about 300 are chronically homeless, says Dean Klein from the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.