Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA) is opening the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) and Public Housing waitlists, according to a press release.

From Jan. 11-Jan. 13, Alexandrians can submit applications for public housing. due to the pandemic, ARHA will only accept applications electronically. Exceptions can be made for those who are disabled and unable to fill out applications electronically.

ARHA faced some criticism from residents early in the pandemic from threats of eviction for violating quarantine, though ultimately the resident association praised ARHA leadership for swift action and clear communication with local residents.

According to the ARHA website:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age to apply.
  • There are no fees for applying to ARHA’s wait lists.
  • Applications will be placed on the waiting list by preference, then by the date and time the application is submitted.
  • All information provided is subject to verification. Therefore, applying does not guarantee that the application will be accepted.
  • ARHA does not provide emergency housing.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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A 33-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond for stealing a car in the West End last month and being a fugitive of justice.

The woman that he lives with in Old Town also admitted to police that she forged a $300 check that the suspect gave her earlier this year, although she has not yet been charged.

The black Nissan Altima was stolen from a parking lot in the Parkstone Alexandria apartments (3001 Park Center Drive) during the overnight hours of September 7. It was found two days later a block away from where the suspect lives in an Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority home in the 3200 block of S. 28th Street.

Fingerprints in the car were matched to the suspect, and police discovered that he lives with a woman under investigation of forging a check for $300 from a stolen Nissan Juke last May, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Police contacted the female suspect, and she was escorted by the male suspect to an ARHA office at 401 Wythe Street. There, she was interviewed alone by police and admitted that her roommate “provided her a stolen check which she then used to fraudulently withdraw $300 from the victim’s account.”

The woman has not been charged and the case remains under investigation, according to police.

Police then called the male suspect on October 13 and he agreed to an interview at Alexandria Police headquarters, but never showed up.

He was arrested on November 2 and charged with receiving/buying stolen goods and being a fugitive from justice for missing two court appearances after being charged with stealing a car last year.

He is currently being held without bond and has two court dates next month.

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Even though it’s just three blocks away, Heather Lesley doesn’t let her teenage daughter walk to the Braddock Road Metro station to meet her when she gets back from work.

“I don’t feel comfortable letting her do that anymore,” Lesley told ALXnow. “My neighbor has bullet holes in the brick wall of their home.”

Ever since the pandemic started, Lesley has noticed an uptick in violent crimes in her neighborhood in the Parker Gray section of the city, and it was only three weeks ago that she called the police after hearing four gunshots. She’s a U.S. Air Force veteran with two kids and her husband is deployed overseas with the Army until next year and is now considering moving from the area.

“I was in bed watching a movie, with two teenagers downstairs,” Lesley said. “I went to my back window and I couldn’t see anything, because last summer a man got shot and made his way to our mailbox area in our homeowners association, and that’s where EMTs found him, so I knew to look for something.”

The Alexandria Police Department’s strategy to combat the uptick in violent activity is to increase their presence in the area, and Lesley and her neighbors have noticed more APD cruisers parked at the Post Office at 1100 Wythe Street. Police are also asking for information from those who have witnessed some of these incidents to call 703-746-4444 or 911 in an emergency.

“Clearly we are concerned about the uptick in firearm-related incidents in Parker Gray/Old Town, and around the City,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “The Police Department has had increased presence, both marked and unmarked in the neighborhoods for the past several weeks and that will continue.”

According to a community crime map, there have been five aggravated assaults in Old Town this month alone, dozens of “other” assaults, and two residential burglaries. Also this month, Wilson appealed to the police to do something about an increase in vehicle thefts.

There have been reports of four shootings in Old Town since July 9. There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17 and a violent carjacking on Euille Street on July 14One suspect was arrested after a July 11 shooting, although police would not release their identity since it would impede the investigation. In June, a man drove himself to the hospital after being shot in the 700 block of North Fayette Street.

As previously reported, there was also a crime spree in the city during the height of the pandemic during a reduction of police presence. Additionally, on March 31, a 17-year-old was shot in what police suspect was a targeted attack. The victim was playing basketball on Tancil Court and his mother later refused to let him talk to police out of fear for his safety, according to police records.

Many of these incidents have occurred within a mile of each other, sometimes within blocks.

On July 30, Police Chief Michael L. Brown conducted an in-person community meeting at Charles Houston Recreation Center to talk about the incidents. He was joined by Wilson and City Manager Mark Jinks.

“The other difficult thing about these shootings is that they’re not happening on a regular basis, or a scheduled basis, they’re happening at a variety of times,” Brown said. “We’re trying to stop this trend.”

Many of the incidents are occurring around Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing, and for the last several months the ARHA board of directors has had special virtual meetings every week to discuss developments during the pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate that these things are happening but we have increased policing that we feel will make a huge difference,” said ARHA Board Member Willie Bailey, who is also a former city councilman. “We have stepped up security at the properties by installing more cameras. We have also started an ARHA Resident Safety Committee where the residents can discuss their issues and have a say in the safety and well-being of their community.”

Lesley’s husband comes home next summer from his deployment, and she says she will make up her mind to move between now and then.

“We love this area, we love this neighborhood and Old Town,” she said. “We love our neighbors, but it’s beginning to be too much.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Warns of Trump Election Conspiracy in November — “Trump’s threat to defy the will of the American people by refusing to accept election results in November is particularly alarming given what is happening in Portland. Trump is not a king. All who swore an oath to defend the Consit(u)tion must reject this, regardless of party.” [Twitter]

November Election Less Than 100 Days Away — “Election day is just a little over 100 days away. For the first time in Virginia history, you can request a ballot in the mail with no excuse required!” [Twitter]

More Alexandria Playgrounds Reopen — “The City of Alexandria announced this evening that its playgrounds as well as those on Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) property have reopened to the public. They were shuttered in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” [Zebra]

Seazante` Williams Oliver Named Principal at George Mason Elementary School — Oliver is a familiar face around George Mason. She has served at the school as assistant principal since 2012, and just last month, became interim principal. She assumes the duties of principal on July 20. [Zebra]

Library Hosting Virtual ‘Rocknoceros’ Concert at 11 a.m. Today — “Children will enjoy bopping along to Williebob and Boogie Bennie’s catchy tunes. All ages.” [Alexandria Library]

ARHA Board Meeting This Wednesday — “The meetings will immediately convene in Executive Session to discuss important matters.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Dog Walker/Pet Sitter — “We are currently hiring exceptional pet sitters and dog walkers to join our wonderful team. This position is fun and rewarding as you get to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and be loved by amazing local dogs, cats and other companion animals!” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is planning to sponsor COVID-19 testing later this week.

“ARHA will be sponsoring COVID-19 testing for residents of Ladrey (300 Wythe Street) and Annie B. Rose (399 Pendleton Street) buildings on Thursday, July 16, from 8-11 a.m. in the parking lot behind the building,” said Rose Williams Boyd, spokesperson for the organization.

Both Annie B. Rose House and Ladrey Senior Highrise Apartments are senior housing locations.

The testing is part of a joint partnership between ARHA, the City, the Alexandria Health Department and Neighborhood Health. Local seniors have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, with all but one of the city’s 57 deaths being locals over 50. The majority of those deaths have been in long term care facilities.

Boyd said there will be no cost for the testing with 275 kits available. If more testing is needed, Boyd said it could be continued on Saturday, July 18.

While there was early frustration from residents at some of the measures ARHA took to isolate residents in the early stages of the pandemic, some have since praised the organization for decisive action in response to COVID-19.

Photo via ARHA

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After some early concerns and criticisms, the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority‘s resident community praised the organization’s leadership and swift action through the pandemic, and vice-versa.

Kevin Harris, the president of the Public Housing Resident Association in Alexandria, praised ARHA’s leadership and CEO Keith Pettigrew in particular. Harris and Jeremy McClayton, an associate organizer with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, said it was a stark contrast to earlier experiences with ARHA.

“In ARHA is used to be that [residents] had to organize to make sure people weren’t living in black mold,” McClayton said. “It’s been a big turnaround.”

Harris said those residents organizing under the old ARHA also timed perfectly with new leadership coming into the association.

“It was a perfect storm,” Harris said. “As we were organizing, there was a changeover in ARHA and Keith really started out on the right foot… The pandemic wasn’t good, but as much as you’re able to help people: they did.”

So far, ARHA has no confirmed deaths from COVID-19. Pettigrew said he remains cautious about the path forward and a potential second wave, but said it was an overabundance of caution that left ARHA in a better place than some regional partners with the pandemic started.

“In terms of PPE, when [coronavirus] first hit in March and I told the staff we needed to get PPE like masks, even hazmat suits,” Pettigrew said. “At first, people were like ‘masks and suits?’ Then a month later were calling like ‘do you have any extras?'”

Pettigrew credits some of his caution to the five years he spent working in housing in New Orleans, which he said helped prepare him for the kind of mobilization and flexibility the pandemic required. Hurricanes, Pettigrew said, were also a situation where housing organizations needed to mobilize and rapidly improvise to deal with changing situations.

Harris said one of the most helpful areas ARHA implemented rapidly was pushing back rent due dates and recertification — which meant that anyone who lost their income could file a notice to ARHA and they would not be charging rent. ARHA not only offered rapid and accessible online recertification, but Harris credited the organization with working to make sure residents throughout the various communities understood what was needed and could be guided through the process.

“It was a matter of getting the information,” Harrs said. “They had staff members knocking door to door. They were helpful in making sure that residents got outside services as well.” Read More

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An Alexandria man was shot late Monday night in the 700 block of North Fayette Street. The man suffered non-life-threatening injuries and drove himself to the hospital, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

“There were a couple of cars that got damaged and hit with bullets holes damaged,” Ballantine told ALXnow. “The male subject took himself to Alexandria Hospital with a gunshot wound that was non-life-threatening.”

No one has been arrested for the incident and no suspect description is available.

The incident occurred before midnight near the Andrew Adkins property managed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which is near Richmond Highway and the Braddock Road Metro station.

Last month, police responded to multiple calls for shots fired in Old Town. In one incident in the 1000 block of Madison Street, shots were fired at a building and cars. No suspects have been arrested in connection with that incident.

The area where the incident occurred is less than a mile from where a 17-year-old resident was shot on a basketball court on March 31 near the Charles Houston Recreation CenterMason Social and Lost Dog Cafe. Police are investigating that incident as a targeted attack and no one has been arrested.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Sen. Kaine Features T.C. Senior Graduation Speech — “Thank you to Mathieu from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria for encouraging the Class of 2020 to be leaders and always lend a helping hand.” [Facebook]

Beyer Calls on U.S. Attorney General to Resign — “The Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer in the country, the leader of an agency meant to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. Barr betrayed that mission by ordering the violent and systematic violation of peaceful protesters’ rights. He should resign.” [Twitter]

Departmental Progressive Club Raises Funds for Community — “Members of the Departmental Progressive Club joined forces to raise more than $1,600 to donate to Carpenter’s Shelter and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.” [Gazette]

Tall Ship Providence Foundation Shows Solidarity — “Our social media is blacked out in solidarity with our Black colleagues, friends and the community. We believe that Black Lives Matter.” [Facebook]

Virtual Job Fair on Thursday — “Looking for a job? Register and attend a free online event for job seekers on Thursday, June 4, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Attendees will meet the Ajilon Professional Staffing team and learn more about immediate COVID-19 contact tracing employment opportunities in Virginia.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Sous Chef — “This position is a hands-on Sous Chef working the line with fellow team mates. The ideal candidate will be able to work independently, create specials and supervise staff when the chef is not present.” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

‘Good. Works. Alexandria’ Giving Event is Today — “Alexandria’s stores and restaurants will give a percentage of their sales to the charities of the customers’ choice.  For every lunch or dinner ordered OR purchase made, we will share those profits with clientele’s charity of choice located on the Spring2ACTion website.” [Old Town Business Association]

Here’s What Services Will Open Under Phase 1  — “As the region proceeds through the reopening phases the Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities, City of Alexandria, VA has released the schedule of how recreation services, facilities and programs will be restored.” [Facebook]

Beyer Opposes Trump’s July 4 Parade Proposal — “Members of Congress representing the national capital region strongly oppose Trump’s plans to hold another large military parade in Washington DC on July Fourth as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit the area hard. This is a bad idea and could put many people in danger.” [Twitter]

ARHA Opening Waiting List for Two Days Only — “If you are looking for housing in Alexandria and you fit the criteria, apply. The list is open for only 2 days (June 1 and 2).” [Facebook]

Volunteer Alexandria Needs Help Preparing Meal Distribution — “Help feed your neighbors on Thursday, May 28, 3:30 to 6:00 P.M. Washington Street UMC, ALIVE!, ARHA, Royal Restaurant, Charles Houston Recreation Center, and Volunteer Alexandria have come together to offer meals/groceries for area residents. Bring your mask and join us to help with set up, meal/grocery distribution, and clean up.” [Facebook]

Bishop Ireton High School Holds Commencement Online — “Congratulations to the extremely talented Class of 2020! So very proud of you!! You will be missed!” [Facebook]

ALIVE! Thanks Great Harvest Bread Co. for Weekly Donation — “Thank you Great Harvest Bread of Alexandria for your twice weekly donations of fresh baked loaves for ALIVE!’s Truck-to-Trunk and our community partners.” [Facebook]

Chamber of Commerce Hosting Biz Reopening Webinar Today — “Join us for The Chamber ALX’s latest series, ‘Reopening: The New Normal’ (at 11 .m.). Each 30-minute session will feature a different business, sharing what their customers and the community can expect from them in Phase One and beyond. [Chamber of Commerce]

New Job: Police Communications Specialist — “The Police Communications Specialist position plays a critical role in the success of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA’s) Metro Transit Police Department. Police Communication Specialists are responsible for answering and dispatching the appropriate Police, Fire, or Emergency Medical Services personnel for calls received by Metro customers and employees.” [Indeed]

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Update 5:45 p.m. — ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said the organization has not evicted any residents, but has issued warnings aimed at preserving the vulnerable populations in ARHA communities.

“What we’re dealing with is a silent killer,” Pettigrew said. “We’re trying to keep people safe. It’s all about health and safety. The black community is the most vulnerable community. We’re not trying to be harsh, we’re trying to save lives.”

Pettigrew also said that if residents lose their employment they should contact their ARHA caseworker to schedule recertification, which will allow them to not be charged rent. The deadline for rent payment was also extended.

“We haven’t kicked anybody out, but we have to warn them,”  Pettigrew emphasized. “The last thing we need are people dying. I think I’m quite lenient with people, but [not when] jeopardizing people’s health.”

Earlier: As with many government agencies and businesses, coronavirus has shut down the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. For local residents in Alexandria’s public housing, that’s been a mixed bag so far.

Keith Pettigrew, CEO of ARHA, said in a March letter to residents that the organization’s office would be closed through the duration of the pandemic.

“We want our residents and public to know that at this time we have closed all administrative offices until further notice,” Pettigrew wrote. “Although offices are closed, we will still be providing the necessary services for residents with some restrictions.”

Pettigrew said maintenance would only respond to emergency, health and safety-related issues. All other work requests will be addressed at an undetermined future date.

With the city calling for the state and the federal governments to freeze rents, some said ARHA should do the same for its unemployed residents.

“They should give the others a deal,” said one resident, a 60-year-old Chatham Square resident told ALXnow.

The resident is on disability, pays about $100 monthly and is concerned about her neighbors.

“They don’t want nobody on the streets. People can’t work right now, too,” she said. “People are looking for jobs, because it’s hard to get a job. It’s bad enough with this virus that people are getting laid off their jobs. A lot of people are dropping like flies, dying because of this, and that’s sad, too.”

ARHA set up a virtual rent payment service for residents, and installed a rent box at the main office on 401 Wythe Street.

Some residents believe ARHA is handling the pandemic too harshly.

“The community center is open for food distribution for the kids from the school system during the week, and it’s a nice thing they’re doing,” said one 65-year-old man living in Hopkins-Tancil.

However, he also said residents were threatened with eviction if their children were caught on the playground. Playgrounds across the city are closed in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“If kids are on the playground, we were told that we’d get a 21/30,” the resident said. “You know what that is, right? It’s a notice that you get 21 days to fix it, or 30 days to leave. They’d also fine us about $65 if we put our trash out too early. It would be nice if they didn’t threaten us.”

ARHA could not be reached for comment.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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