By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
In Fairfax County, the very rich and the very poor live side by side. The Washington Post recently reported that the homeless student population in Fairfax County is on the verge of breaking 2,500 students — a record for the county, which is by some measures the second most affluent county in the US. Since 2005, the number of homeless students in Fairfax County has been on the rise — growing by 58% from 2005 to 2011. This trend echoes the observations made recently in Venture Philanthropy Partners’ Capital Kids report, which offers comprehensive data on the state of children and youth in the greater Washington area. (Read our review on the report here.)
Capital Kids focuses on “the poverty factor” as one of the four main issues involving children and youth in the National Capital Region: “The negative social, academic and health outcomes for children raised in poverty have been well documented. They include a greater incidence of chronic health conditions (such as asthma); mental disorders, including depression; and risky behaviors such as smoking, drugs, alcohol and early sexual activity. Childhood poverty is also associated with poor school attendance and decreased academic achievement, as well as behavioral problems such as delinquency.”
According to the Post, the recession and its after-effects have caused this explosion of homeless youth and students. Right now, more than 1 million students are experiencing homelessness across the country. Judith Dittman, executive director of Catalogue nonprofit Alternative House, was quoted in the Post, expressing her concern about this situation in Northern Virginia: “Nobody wants to see these kids sleeping on the street. No matter how bad the economy is, we don’t want to see 17-year-olds sleeping in the doorways at libraries.”
Working specifically with runaway, abused, and homeless youth, Alterative House “offers safe and accessible places where teens can get help” and has served thousands of youth over the past 40 years. Alternative House is one of many Catalogue nonprofits that serve the homeless population in Fairfax County. Here’s a brief look at several others, and you can find a complete list of nonprofits serving Fairfax County here.
= Doorways for Women and Families has worked for 30 years to break the intergenerational cycles of homelessness and domestic violence, providing a variety of support services to families who are working to move out of homelessness.
- For over three decades, Shelter House has provided a structured and supportive environment for homeless families in Fairfax County, through transitional housing programs, emergency shelters, and case management for newly-housed families.
- Main Street Child Development Center is one of the few nonprofit childcare centers in the area, ensuring that children from low-income households have the same educational start as their higher income peers.
- FACETS provides emergency services and supportive programs to prevent homelessness and assist those who are already homeless, working to ensure that every Fairfax family has a place to call home.