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Morning Notes

Alexandria launches pop-up recreation — “Stationed at various outdoor locations throughout the city, including parks and schools, the Pop-Up Rec will encourage people of all ages to get physically active. There will also be some indoor activities. Look for the Pop-Up Rec every Monday, Thursday and Saturday.” [Zebra]

Struggling veterans find new home in Alexandria — “Operation Renewed Hope Foundation opened a new home in Alexandria for Northern Virginia veterans struggling with homelessness on March 9, according to a news release.” [Alex Times]

Alexandria Drive-In proceeds on March 27 go to students — “JOIN the Alexandria Community in *Remembering* The Titans at the Alexandria Drive In March 27. All proceeds support college scholarships for the Class of 2021 Titans” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day). High 64F. Winds ENE at 5 to 1… A few clouds overnight. Low 41F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender and server — “We are a waterfront restaurant and event venue in North Old Town Alexandria seeking qualified servers/bartenders to join our professional family. You must be experienced, personable, and have a passion for hospitality!” [Indeed]

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James Harris has been coming to Christ House to get an evening meal for about a year ever since he lost work from the pandemic.

“Strange how all that started,” Harris told ALXnow just before 5 p.m. outside the Old Town charity. “It just popped up out of the blue, so I’ve been coming here for about a year since business got quiet.”

Alexandria’s homeless increased to 207 people, a 5% increase over 2019, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ annual report on homelessness in the region. The report for 2021 is being gathered now and should be ready by the end of next month, although it’s not clear yet if there’s a change this year, despite high unemployment figures.

Lesa Gilbert, director of the city’s Department of Community and Human Services Center for Economic Support, said that homeless do not have to sleep outside in Alexandria.

“You have an option to stay in our winter shelter in the Lee Center,” she said. “It’s open all day. We also have warming shelters throughout the city.”

Earlier this month, a homeless woman was found dead in Arlandria. Her death was not suspicious, according to police, and the city reportedly offered her help.

Last year, the city put homeless in hotels during the initial months of the pandemic, although the practice has since been discontinued. Carpenter’s Shelter also moved its David’s Place shelter for the chronically homeless at Landmark Mall to a smaller location at 930 N. Henry Street in Old Town.

Gilbert doesn’t know if the number of homeless will rise in 2021, but said that a federal extension of the eviction moratorium for renters beyond March 31 will help. There have been numerous protests throughout the city from renters asking for an extension.

“We’re doing the best we can in terms of connecting residents to the Virginia Relief Program, as well as the programs that we have here locally or locally funded dollars to prevent folks from losing their housing.”

Carpenter’s Shelter Executive Director Shannon Steene says that volume at the shelter decreased from 60 to 42 people to encourage distancing, and that the eviction moratorium must be extended.

“This past year has been such a mind bending experience,” Steene said. “There are several hundred households in the city of Alexandria influenced by that moratorium. That clearly affects what volume we see here at the shelter.”

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It was a cold and snowy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on plans to redevelop the GenOn power plant in Old Town North. It looks like deconstruction of the plant will start in 2023 and developers are looking at converting it into an urban, mixed-use property with housing.

The short work week started with news that Alexandria reached 10,000 cases of COVID-19. The latest figures show that there are 10,113 cases and 104 total deaths in the city, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The city’s seven-day moving average is now 35.1 cases.

A 49-year-old homeless woman was found dead in Arlandria on Tuesday morning, and the mayor told us that homelessness is on the rise in the city. ALXnow is following up with the city on the issue.

Tuesday morning also brought news that Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein abandoned his run for mayor and will not seek reelection to council. Seifeldein was hired as a trial lawyer by the U.S. Department of Labor in Jan. 2020, and while he can finish out his term on council, he can not run unless he files as an independent candidate.

In other election news, the race for city council is starting to get crowded, as Bill Rossello, a co-founder of the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook Group, just threw his hat into the ring.

On the vaccine front, the waiting list has surpassed 45,000 and it may be until late summer that the vaccine is widely available in the city. On Thursday, Mayor Justin Wilson also asked the governor to open vaccine eligibility for restaurant, personal care and retail workers.

More than 200 people responded to this week’s poll on power outages. There have been a number of outages over tha last year, and 73% of respondents reported experiencing an outage, while 26% report that their homes haven’t been impacted.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Developers Lay Out Multi-Year Timeline for GenOn Plant Redevelopment
  2. BREAKING: Homeless Woman Found Dead on Mount Vernon Avenue
  3. Alexandria Boxer Troy Isley Goes Pro With Big Fight Next Week
  4. Seifeldein Not Running for Mayor, Leaving Alexandria City Council
  5. ALXnow’s Top Stories this Week in Alexandria
  6. Director of Finance: Alexandria’s Real Estate Assessments Are a ‘Tale of Two Markets’
  7. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  8. Torpedo Factory Overhaul Heads to City Council Next Month
  9. Snow: Up to 6 Inches of Snow and Ice Expected in Alexandria
  10. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Investigate Second Car Stolen While Owner Pumps Gas
  11. Local Facebook Watchdog Group Founder Bill Rossello Announces Run for City Council

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Police have identified the homeless woman found dead in Arlandria on Tuesday as 49-year-old Isabelle Hernandez Saballa.

Police said Saballa, who went by the name “Dora”, was a known subject in the community and her death was not suspicious in nature.

“The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office will determine Ms. Saballa’s cause and manner of death, but at this time, it does not appear to be suspicious,” according to police.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that there has been an increase of homeless in the city during the pandemic, and ALXnow has reached out to the city for more information.

“We certainly mourn the loss of the resident and our thoughts are with her family,” Wilson told ALXnow. “We have seen a notable increase in homelessness during the pandemic, which has not only created challenges for our residents, but also for our ability to provide homeless prevention services. While I do not know all of the details, my understanding is that this resident had been offered services on a few occasions. We’ll try to see what we can learn from this incident to prevent future loss of life.”

The city’s Department of Community and Human Services is asking residents to help homeless people in the community. Temperatures are expected to continue to dip into freezing territory until next week.

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Carpenter’s Shelter has invited the community to a ribbon-cutting on Thursday (Dec. 10) for the new shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

“This ribbon-cutting will be held in conjunction with with the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, who will be celebrating the opening of 97 affordable apartment units named The Bloom at Braddock,” the nonprofit said in a press release.

The new facility will have 60 beds available and ten of the homes in The Bloom will be available for chronically homeless adults. Those saying in the supportive housing units above will have case managers to assist with chronic issues like health, employment and education.

“It’s with pride that we open the doors on this purpose-built space to help Alexandria’s population that is homeless,” said Shannon Steene, executive director of Carpenter Shelter. “But more importantly to be able to work with a great organization in AHDC to also increase the city’s affordable housing supply. It’s great to be a part of this dynamic collaboration and we are looking forward to working together.”

Image via AHDC

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Morning Notes

City’s Guidance for Students Returning Home — “Students and staff should minimize their interactions with others as much as possible in the 14 days before leaving the IHE. Students and staff should also minimize the risk of exposure during travel home. Traveling alone in a private vehicle is the safest option. Students and staff who are unable to limit interactions with others at the IHE may consider quarantining themselves for 14 days after they arrive home.” [City of Alexandria]

Killer ESP Owner Denies Allegations by Quitting Staff — “Presented with some of the specific accusations against him regarding sexual harassment and the shop’s cleanliness, Shelton said, ‘This is outrageous. These lies are more absurd than the first go around.’ He said he would follow up with call, but later texted, ‘I’ve been advised by my attorneys to keep quiet.'” [Washingtonian]

City Urges Shelter During Cold for People Experiencing Homelessness — “The temperatures are dropping into the 20s tonight. The City’s Winter Shelter for individuals and families experiencing homelessness is open in two locations.” [Department of Community and Human Services]

Visit Alexandria Receives Grant to Expand Marketing of City’s Black History — “With the grant, Visit Alexandria will be able to produce videos and other media, including web content about Black-owned businesses and African American heritage sites. The plan is to highlight areas such as those that can be  seen during the Courageous Journey: Alexandria’s Black History Driving Tour and Duke Street Black History Trail.” [Zebra]

Staff photo by James Cullum

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As anyone going to vote in-person today can attest, winter’s bitter chill has started to set in. Temperatures are expected to hit a low of 41 degrees tomorrow. For the city’s most vulnerable populations, however, shelter has opened to help locals experiencing homelessness get through the winter.

“A shelter at Lee Center (1108 Jefferson) is serving single adults and another at Carpenter’s Shelter (5701 Duke St., Suite D) is serving families,” the city said on its website. “The Winter Shelter program, also called hypothermia shelters, is operated by Carpenter’s Shelter to ensure that guests have a warm, clean and safe environment to retreat from the elements of winter at night.”

The locations are open 7 p.m.-7 a.m. daily through March 31. The Lee Center was added as a location this year to allow for more social distancing between guests as prescribed by CDC guidelines. Areas will also be set aside for isolation in the event that either a guest or staff becomes ill. Guests and staff at the facilities will also be screened for COVID-19 before entry, the city said.

Transportation is available both to and from the shelters to locations throughout Old Town.

“Residents interested in supporting their neighbors experiencing homelessness are invited to join the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness (PPEH),” the city said. “The PPEH strives to ensure the planning, coordination and implementation of an effective and efficient continuum of care to prevent and end homelessness in the City of Alexandria. Email [email protected] for more information or find PPEH online.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

City Releases Annual Homeless Data — “The 2020 Annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count revealed 207 persons experiencing homelessness (i.e., unsheltered and in temporary shelter made available by homeless services providers) in the City of Alexandria.” [City of Alexandria]

Alexandria Police Release 2019 Traffic Stop Data — “The vast majority of traffic stops — 80 percent — occur on weekdays, with Tuesday and Wednesday being the most common days.” [Alexandria Living]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets Hydrated — “Did you know today (Tuesday) is National Hydration Day? Thanks to Trezur C of Tres Outreach for donating twenty five cases of water to keep our residents nice and cool during these hot summer days!” [Facebook]

Fire Department Conducting Virtual Station Tours — “So instead of in person tours and visits, we thought we would provide a couple of virtual station tours for the community, especially those who are frequent visitors at their neighborhood stations and couldn’t drop by during the past few months. First up, Fire Station 206, located at 4609 Seminary Road…our tech rescue station.” [Facebook]

ALX Community Hosting COVID Coping Workshop June 25 — “Hosted by Elena Jimenez, founder of Execute Your Destiny, this series offers a rare opportunity to navigate the current social and racial climate in search of new perspectives and solutions.” [Eventbrite]

New Job: Part-Time Dance Teacher — “Looking for experienced dance and acro teachers. Openings on weekdays and Saturday. Primarily classes for children aged 3 and older.” [Indeed]

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Carpenter’s Shelter reopened its David Place facility at Landmark Mall last week and moved back all of its residents from the temporary shelter at Charles Houston Recreation Center.

Meanwhile, a number of homeless residents and families are still being housed in hotel rooms in the city — a measure that was put in place to protect them from the coronavirus.

Carol Mizoguchi, director of the Office of Community Services, said that the city still has 34 rooms under contract with the Residence Inn Old Town Alexandria South at Carlyle. She also said that the city’s rehousing funds are being used to help the residents find housing options.

“Right now we have 13 families and 19 singles that are still in the hotel, and we’re working to prioritize and move those families to permanent housing,” Mizoguchi said. “We’re utilizing our rapid rehousing dollars. Also ARHA (the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority) has vouchers, so we’ve made referrals for many of those families to receive vouchers, and hopefully, be able to find landlords that are willing to rent to the families, and they’ll have help pay for their rent.”

Carpenter’s Shelter Executive Director Shannon Steene told ALXnow that there are about 25 homeless residents back at David’s Place.

“Some of them are back in David’s Place, some of them found some other means in order to meet their needs and we’re grateful for that,” Steene said.

Jamila Smith, the Carpenter’s Shelter relationship manager, said that the nonprofit needs volunteers and supplies for their clients. She also said that residents and staff are separated by plexiglass partitions, residents are required to wear face masks indoors and that temperatures are taken on a daily basis.

“We are still looking for 20 twin air mattresses, new twin sheet sets and pillow and towel sets, cutlery and some of the basics that you would need to move into a new place,” Smith said. “We are in need of volunteers to assist at our front desk, to provide and serve food and to help organize donations.”

Great News!!!! Our families are starting to leave the hotel and move to their new homes! We are so excited for them!…

Posted by Carpenter's Shelter on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria is putting many of the city’s homeless in hotel rooms for the foreseeable future.

“While many of our hotels are suffering significant losses of their own, they have been willing to partner with the City to assist in the response,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “To ensure that our homeless populations can maintain safe social distancing, these hotel partnerships have been critical.”

On April 1, the city made a contract with the Residence Inn Old Town Alexandria South at Carlyle, to house up to 46 households experiencing homelessness, city spokesman Craig Fifer said.

“Since the situation is evolving, there is no specific end date for this sheltering option at this time,” Fifer said.

The individuals and families being housed are equipped with kitchens, and rooms are attended by hotel housekeeping staff.

Some households are receiving food through ALIVE! and the City’s Frozen Meals Delivery Program, Fifer said.

“Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are often more vulnerable because it may be harder for them to access public health information, food and medicine, shelter, running water and hand sanitizer, face coverings, heath care and other basic needs,” Fifer said. “They are also more likely to have underlying medical conditions due to past difficulty accessing health care.”

The total cost if all rooms are used for the maximum times they’re under contract through June 10 is $143,986.44, according to the city. The monies can come from the City’s fund balance for emergency and disaster response, and may be reimbursable with federal COVID-19 funding.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a number of the city’s vulnerable groups, and sheltering options are also available via Carpenter’s Shelter at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Old Town and Alexandria Community Shelter at 2355-B Mill Road.

Photo via Residence Inn Old Town Alexandria South at Carlyle/Facebook

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