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Arlington County is embarking on a new effort to help the hundreds of homeless people stuck out on the streets. It's called "100 Homes," and it's different from anything the county has tried in the past.
Arlington is one of the richest counties in the nation, a fact that may make it easier to ignore the local homeless population, which numbers about 500 people right now. Kathy Sibert, who works with these people almost every day as executive director of the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN), says by ignoring homeless people, others remain unaware that dying out on the street is an everyday fear for many individuals.
"Yes, there are people dying on the streets of Arlington just like there are people dying on the streets of most communities in the United States," she says. Sibert and others in the county hope to help those in greatest danger through the 100 Homes project, part of the national 100,000 Homes campaign.
Participating counties will train volunteers to survey the local homeless population over the course of three days, with the goal of identifying the 100 most vulnerable homeless individuals in their areas.
Anita Friedman, who leads Arlington's economic independence division, says to determine vulnerability, the project uses "morbidity factors" such as how long someone has been homeless, and what medical problems they have.
"And then there's tri-morbidity, which is when you have the combination of mental illness, substance abuse, and a medical problem," Friedman says.
A-SPAN client Harold Fisher would have been a prime candidate for the program not long ago. The 42-year-old has diabetes, and while he was homeless he developed an infection in his leg that left him barely able to walk.
"It's hard. I didn't think I was going to make it," he says. "I was really scared."
But Fisher was treated at a local emergency room and, with help from A-SPAN, moved into his own apartment in August. He says his favorite part is the privacy, and the old hardwood floors in his building. With the 100 Homes project, Arlington is hoping to give 100 other people that same feeling.