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.
“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.
Carpenter’s Shelter opened a 40-person temporary safety shelter at the Charles Houston Recreation Center on Monday, and up to 40 chronically homeless people will be sleeping on mats on the basketball court.
The Carpenter’s Shelter David’s Place/winter shelter is now closed for the season and does not provide the same space for distancing as Charles Houston (901 Wythe Street).
The city’s DASH bus system transported 40 people to Charles Houston on Monday. Eight families have also been relocated to hotels in the city, and Carpenter’s Shelter plans on renting out the hotel rooms and using the recreation center for a month.
“They were too crowded in that amount of space, and that’s what prompted the discussion and exploring other alternatives in the community,” Carpenter’s Shelter Executive Director Shannon Steene told ALXnow. “This has been quite a coordinated response with various partners across the city as this whole pandemic has unfolded.”
If the recreation center and hotel rooms are still needed after a month, an extension will be considered, Steene said.
“We might have to make a reassessment,” he said. “The base goal amid all of this is making sure that people are safe.”
Steene said that the organization, which is working without volunteers for the first time, needs up to 50 homemade face masks, sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer for his staff and residents.
“We do need masks. We got a shipment in of homemade masks, and they went very quickly to our residents,” Steene said. “We’ve ordered commercial ones, and as with everyone they’re on backorder, so we’re just holding our own at this point trying to keep safe and covered with cloth as best as possible.”
Those interested in donating to Carpenter’s Shelter should contact Volunteer Coordinator Jamila Smith at 703-548-7500, or at [email protected]
Carpenter’s Shelter is working through the COVID-19 pandemic without its cadre of volunteers, and people are now staying at Alexandria’s largest homeless shelter for longer periods of time, according to the organization’s executive director.
“The days have been long and the challenge is great, but the best perspective on all of this is that our work and our mission has never felt more critical than it does right now,” Carpenter’s Shelter Executive Director Shannon Steene told ALXnow. “We are seeing more people in the shelter for longer periods of time, and all in the context of asking our volunteers not to be volunteering at the shelter for the health and safety of our residents.”
The pandemic has forced Carpenter’s Shelter — located at the vacated Macy’s department store at Landmark Mall — to ask its 1,200 volunteers to stay home, and Steene’s staff of 25 employees are going outside their job descriptions to make sure that the organization’s 60-bed emergency shelter remains operational and that the virus does not make its way in. Carpenter’s Shelter is also still operating its hypothermia shelter.
Steene said that Carpenter’s Shelter needs grocery store gift cards for individuals and families and hand sanitizer. He also said that residents and staff are taking daily temperature checks.
“We have deputized staff and residents as wipe down warriors, so there’s a lot of wiping of any touched surfaces going on,” he said. “
Usually there are upward of 20 volunteers working at Carpenter’s Shelter every day –out of 1200 volunteers — and Steene said this is the first time in the organization’s history that volunteers have not helped weather a crisis.
“We have had winter storms where five staff members have stayed in the building for 52 hours at one stretch just making sure that everything is safe and suitable for the residents, but this is the first time in our organizational life that we haven’t had volunteers in the shelter,” he said. “And I’ve got to say that our volunteers are embedded in our culture and the energy. We look forward to when all of this is under our control and seeing those volunteers come back into our work. They’re the lifeblood of what we do.”
Visit Alexandria Launches ‘ALX at Home’ — “Experience Alexandria’s restaurants, shops and attractions from the comfort of your own home… From unlimited ‘Ride it Out’ bike rentals to beer-to-go curbside pickup to FaceTime shopping, there are numerous ways to support the independent businesses that make Alexandria so special. Buy a gift card for a future date. Pick up a ready-to-go dinner to make at home. Tap into your creative spirit by taking a live stream writing workshop.” [Visit Alexandria]
Mark Levine Says It’s ‘Criminal’ to Congregate During Pandemic — “You must be unaware of the @GovernorVA‘s executive order. There are criminal penalties for going to a bar or restaurant tonight. If more than 10 people congregate, the restaurant can lose its license and folks can go to jail. ” the Delegate for Virginia’s 45th district wrote in an email.” [Twitter]
Former Police Chief Charles Samarra Passes Away — “Charlie was a beloved figure in the region’s public safety community. He will be missed by many, but his legacy of excellence and professionalism lives on.” [Facebook]
Alexandria Doctor Helps Homeless During Pandemic — “As far as street care, I don’t really feel comfortable having anyone else with me right now due to all the unknowns from coronavirus.” [WTOP]
Old Town Home and Garden Tour Canceled — The annual event was to be held on April 18, and has been canceled due to concerns about coronavirus. [Alexandria Living]
Driver Hospitalized After Car Flips on King Street — “Overnight, units from 206 and Arlington Station 109 worked to assist one patient from an overturned vehicle on King Street near Dawes Avenue. One patient was transported to an area hospital by Medic 206.” – [Twitter]
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Population, Housing Continue to Grow — “Alexandria’s housing inventory is barely keeping up with its population growth. That’s a key takeaway from Alexandria’s recently released fiscal 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report… The city added an estimated 2,300 residents in the last year, climbing to 156,800, and roughly 2,900 total residential units, ending fiscal 2019 with 82,310.” [Washington Business Journal]
New ACPS Trying Out Healthy Recipes — “Alexandria City Public Schools recently welcomed a new executive chef to its cafeterias and he’s already got some fresh ideas. Chef Isaiah Ruffin wants more vegetarian options on the menu, less sodium in the lunch items, and about 80 percent of the ingredients to be locally sourced.” [WDVM]
Local Cop Dedicated to Helping the Homeless — “In Alexandria, Officer Bennie Evans goes far beyond the call of duty to work with the homeless — often using his time and money to help — with the goal of building a stronger community altogether. ABC7 joined him on an autumn day at Alexandria’s Meade Memorial Episcopal Church as Evan cooked up lunch for more than a hundred people.” [ABC 7]
Reminder: Weekend Events — A number of significant events are taking place in Alexandria this weekend, including the Alexandria Cider Festival, the holiday tree lighting in Old Town, and the inaugural Alexandria Makers Market at Port City Brewing.
As cold weather starts to set in, a local bar is hosting a holiday coat and blanket drive to help homeless people in the D.C. area.
Charlie’s on the Avenue (1501 Mount Vernon Avenue) — which opened last year — is now in its second year of hosting the local event, which itself is in its fourth year. The drive is scheduled to run from 5-9:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday).
“We are asking for donations for warm coats and blankets,” the event hosts said in a Facebook post. “All sizes are welcome (strong demand for XL, and XXL). Also welcomed are socks, underwear, hand warmers, and/or toiletries. Please make sure donations are clean and in decent condition.”
Items can also be purchased for the drive through an Amazon wish list.
The event organizers said they will also need volunteers to help hand out the donations sometime in December at Franklin Square Park (950 13th Street N.W.).
“For those of you that want to handout/volunteer on the day we distribute the donations to the homeless at Franklin Square in Washington D.C. (Date to be announced) — we will need some help so please private message me or any of the co-hosts,” the organizers said. “We especially need a few big men with authoritative voices to help with crowd control.”
The bar will also have happy hour specials during the coat drive.
Photo via Facebook
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