"We're especially pleased to be here today for the ribbon-cutting for Bailey's Shelter," said Michael L. O'Reilly, Chairman of the governing board of the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness. "Many of us were here on April 5, 2018, when we broke ground. It's amazing we are back here today. …This shelter is spectacular,” said O'Reilly.
Designed by LeMay Erickson Willcox Architects and built by the Forrester Construction team, the facility, located at 5914 Seminary Road in Falls Church, was completed on time and on budget.
Outreach Representative for U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D- 11), Alex Robbins, recalled when Connolly was on the Governing Board to Prevent and End Homelessness; they reduced homelessness by 47 percent during that time. "Something we can be very proud of. Obviously, we know the work still remains… (But) the creation of a facility like this one shows we live in a community that really cares," said Robbins.
Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, described what set the 23,000 square foot structure with its energy-efficient equipment, lighting and appliances, and a green roof apart. "This brand new building is the first in its generation of modern shelter facilities in our county. …The building is designed with flexibility where multiple needs can be efficiently met in one location." According to the project information sheet, the facility has 52 emergency shelter beds for single adults, including four medical respite beds, 18 permanent supportive housing units or micro-efficiencies, a laundry room, additional space for Fairfax County’s hypothermia program, an outdoor picnic and activity area, and 24-hour staffing with on-site medical guidance and counseling. "That allows us to provide permanent housing with intensive services for our most vulnerable residents," said Bulova. Residents who would use the facility included veterans, domestic violence survivors, older adults and many with chronic health challenges and disabilities. "It is critical we provide these individuals with the support and services that they need all in one building," she said.
BULOVA thanked the Board of Supervisors and specifically Penny Gross, Supervisor (D-Mason District) where the project was located for their help and guidance. “This was not an easy thing to do," said Bulova. While Bulova said much remained to be done before homelessness ended in Fairfax County, Bailey's Shelter and Supportive Housing is a giant leap in that direction.
"It demonstrates an ongoing commitment to preventing and ending homelessness. It gets us closer to our goal of making homelessness, rare, brief and nonrecurring. …There will always be people who are having difficulty and end up being homeless, but that should be brief, that should be…unusual. There should be safety supports there to help that person get back on his or her feet, to be able to become a productive member of the community, and realize their potential."
Penny Gross recalled the long journey to this day. "One fraught with challenges, a few scars, but the effort has been worth it. Throughout the entire process, respecting all opinions, we recognized there is dignity in every person regardless of need as our guiding principles," Gross said. She said the original shelter opened in 1987, spearheaded by faith-based communities. Over time, that shelter experienced much wear and tear. It was not accessible for people with disabilities, didn't have sufficient space to serve the people who walked in the door and there wasn't enough space for staff. "That was then. Today we are celebrating a new Bailey's Shelter and Supporting Housing," she said.
Gross spoke about two framed art pieces she had in her office, one, a drawing of the Patrick Henry Family Shelter, the other, a photograph of the original Bailey's Shelter. "They sit on the floor, propped up in front of my desk. Why? I decided long ago, until we were able to house every homeless person, those pieces also would not have a permanent home. They provide a reminder every day of the goal we try to reach, ending homelessness in Fairfax County. Today, however, I have another framed art piece, and this one I don't want to see propped on the floor as a reminder but hung somewhere in the new facility as a reminder of the history of this area…I’d like to present to Bailey's Shelter and Supportive Housing this historical photo collage."
Bryan Hill, Fairfax County Executive, thanked the staff and said that the Strategic Plan Committee looked forward to shaping the future of the county, and this (motioning to the shelter) was how they were developing it. "This is a new Fairfax County. We have to continue moving forward and ensuring that all are taken care of,” Hill stated.
Dean Klein, the director of Fairfax County's Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, said what Bailey's Shelter and Supportive Housing ultimately offered was hope. "What a critical model this is, to leverage resources to be able to provide emergency shelter space with staff and be able to use that same staff to ensure that we are developing a community. This new facility allows for this type of community, individuals who in fact have been isolated, living on their own, been living in our wooded areas and cars, or have lacked the level of support that they needed from individuals, their families, or others." Klein said the activity room would provide overflow to their hyperthermia program. In addition, they would be partnering with the Health Care for the Homeless program, which will ensure there would be a full-time nurse practitioner able to support individuals in the emergency shelter part of the facility and those in permanent supportive housing.
Klein thanked artist Dana Schuerer of Reston, who designed the mural in the plaza area. "Very impressive," he said.
PAMELA L. MICHELL, Executive Director of New Hope Housing, addressing Gross and Bulova, said, "It's not always popular doing homeless services…People have misunderstandings, and it's only because people (like you, who) have the courage this happens, so thank you." Concluding her remarks, Michell described the shelters' residents, guests and how Bailey's Shelter and Support Housing "screamed" hope and hospitality.
"Think about what it must be like to be first time homeless. Do you know where to turn; are you willing to talk about it to anybody and ask for any help? Probably not. You're depressed. You're traumatized. You have nothing materially but also don't have any self-worth probably. We've read a lot in this world about how the environment is so important to people's success. If you are traumatized and depressed…it is very important that the environment you have leads you to want to be in some other position. We often talk about art in office space and home and school, but I want you to think about it in terms of homeless shelter…The thing that I love most about it (the shelter) is it is bright, and it says the world can be different for you. We hope that it will indeed be different, not only with all the supports, but just the environment it has created; that it says to people, you are important; your life can be different, and we are here to help make that happen."
Klein said there are three other shelters in Fairfax considered next for renovation or rebuilding — Embry Rucker Community Shelter (Reston), Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter (Richmond Highway) and Patrick Henry Family Shelter (Falls Church). A 21st-century facility design similar to Bailey’s could be used as their model.