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Hypothermia Shelters to Open Doors Dec. 1; County Adapts Program to Account for COVID-19

Updated: 5 days ago


As overnight temperatures begin their descent into the winter months, it is anticipated that more than one thousand unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness will be turning to Fairfax County’s Hypothermia Prevention Program for protection from the wintry cold. To ensure accommodations for expected guests amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairfax County has identified eight shelter locations at public facilities with appropriate space requirements to ensure a safe environment for guests to obtain refuge from the elements.

While many individuals who are experiencing homelessness may have access to warm, safe accommodations through friends, family and other programs and services, nearly 1,200 residents rely on the Hypothermia Prevention Program to avoid being exposed to the harsh and dangerously cold winter weather. Last year, the Hypothermia Prevention Program served an average of 215 guests per night. Guests are provided with a warm place to sleep, food, and other supportive services for a variety of basic needs – including clothing, employment, housing and more.

“For fifteen years, the life-saving mission of the Hypothermia Prevention Program has been fulfilled through the extraordinary assistance of numerous community nonprofits and houses of worship,” said Tom Barnett, Deputy Director for Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. “This year, we needed to get creative as many of our previous partners have insufficient space to safely accommodate guests in a COVID-19 environment. We are grateful for the support of our County leadership, staff, and our community partners for their engagement in helping formulate a solution for using vacant and under-utilized public facilities to ensure that everyone can find warm shelter this winter.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have authorized the following public facilities to be designated as Hypothermia Prevention Shelters for the 2020-2021 program season – running from December 1, 2020, through April 1, 2021:

  • Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria)

  • Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 N Chambliss Street, Alexandria)

  • North County Human Services Building (1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston)

  • The Former Container (8508 Leesburg Pike, Vienna)

In reviewing locations throughout the county to determine their suitability to serve as shelter locations, staff searched for sites that had sufficient space to host the estimated number of shelter guests; meet the required fire and building code standards to allow for overnight sleeping on-site; and that are publicly owned and expected to be underutilized for the duration of the program.

The public facilities listed above will be joining the County’s list of operating shelters which serve adults experiencing homelessness to ensure sufficient accommodations for unsheltered individuals through the winter months, including:

  • Eleanor Kennedy Shelter (9155 Richmond Highway, Fort Belvoir)

  • Bailey’s Shelter and Supportive Housing (5914 Seminary Road, Falls Church)

  • Embry Rucker Community Shelter (11975 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston)

Shelters will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week and will be constantly monitored by program staff. Fairfax County has established a number of security and health protocols that will help provide a safe environment for staff and guests alike. For complete details about this year’s Hypothermia Prevention Program, visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/homeless/hypothermia-prevention-program.


* The Former Container Store is anticipated to be participating as a shelter location for the 2020-2021 program year; however, staff is awaiting final confirmation on this location. Confirmation of this location will be posted on the Hypothermia Prevention Program website as soon as details are finalized.

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