Volunteer Joe Drache has a homeless Fairfax resident fill out a well-being questionnaire.
Fairfax County wants to put a face on its homeless population and many good people are involved in that effort. Volunteers have been scouring the county this week to conduct homeless vulnerability questionnaires.
The questionnaire asks a lot of questions, like the following:
- How long have you been homeless this time?
- Where did you sleep last night?
- When was the last time you had your own place?
Hundreds of volunteers have fanned out under bridges, in the woods, behind shopping centers and in parked cars and parking lots — anywhere where the chronically homeless may be living.
"In the case of our team, it has not been difficult," says volunteer Joe Drache. "All five individuals we interviewed were very open and forthcoming and wanted to share their stories."
While many of the homeless in Fairfax County are unemployed or underemployed, trying to cope with high rents in the area. The volunteers are focused on the chronically homeless — those who have gone years without stable illness because of mental illness, chronic substance abuse, or physical challenges or disabilities.
These answers assembled by the teams of volunteers will be crunched over the next few days, and then made available to the public.
"The first thing we want to do is put a face on homelessness in the county, because it's so invisible," says Pam Michell, with New Hope Housing, a new non-profit in the county that is spearheading the effort. "Then we hope that over three years that we can house 150 of these people that we are meeting and learning about."
Last year, the county counted 353 chronically homeless individuals — an increase of 30 percent over the previous year.