Supervisor Boddye’s office has received numerous inquiries on the safety of some of the most vulnerable people within our community: the unsheltered and homeless. While there are many resources available through the Department of Social Services (DSS) and through community partners, many inquiries revolved around how those services might change during the COVID-19 emergency. Our office reached out to DSS and various community partners to develop this resource guide for the unsheltered and homeless and residents who would like to support them.
Coordinated Entry System
Those experiencing homelessness or the threat of homelessness should call the County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) at 703-792-3366. The CES ensures people have fair and equal access to homeless services. The CES team will quickly identify, assess, refer and connect people to resources based on their strengths and needs. CES operating hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Prince William Area Continuum of Care is made up of local governments, non-profit providers, faith-based organizations, outreach organizations, and citizens at large with the goal of ending homelessness.
The GMU MAPP program is working virtually with the homeless population at the Drop-in Center.
If someone experiencing homelessness is sick or needs to be tested for COVID-19, they should call a healthcare provider and that way the healthcare professional can determine if they need to be tested. If they don’t have a doctor then they should call the Prince William Health District call center line at 703-872-7759; or call 9-1-1 if they are experiencing a medical emergency.
The Prince William Health District can also answer questions regarding COVID-19.
Drop-In Center and Shelters
The Bill Mehr Drop-In Center is still operating at its permanent location, 14716 Potomac Mills Road, Woodbridge, from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday. To help maintain social distancing, up to 10 participants are allowed into the center at one time. There is a waiting area outside that provides shelter from the outdoor elements that also is set up to maintain social distancing. Meals and self-serve laundry are available. Showers are available for those who were not at the Overnight Shelter. Persons with counseling or treatment needs are provided a room with a phone for virtual appointments.
The Overnight Shelter for adults is now located at the A. J. Ferlazzo Building Gymnasium (15941 Donald Curtis Dr., Woodbridge) in order to maintain social distancing. It is open from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. for 48 participants. Meals are provided, and showers are available. Case management support and phone charging stations are also available. Transportation is provided every day at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. from the permanent location of the Overnight Shelter to the Ferlazzo Gym; and at 6:45 a.m. from the Ferlazzo Gym to the Bill Mehr Drop-In Center.
Streetlight Outreach Ministries is contracted to run the Overnight Shelter and their team is continuing to perform outreach support along with support from DSS. Streetlight’s Case Manager for the unsheltered homeless is visiting campsites to ascertain needs and to encourage unsheltered homeless residents to take advantage of mainstream services for food stamps, housing, Medicaid, etc.
For homeless families and especially homeless adults who are ill or at very high risk of a serious case of COVID-19, Streetlight is providing help with hotel rooms. Streetlight is seeking cash donations to help in this effort.
Community partners such as Action in Community Service (ACTS) and Northern Virginia Family Service SERVE are also providing temporary housing and temporary housing assistance. Contacting the Coordinated Entry System is the best way to reach all of these resources.
OmniRide Local Bus Services are Free
In the interest of public safety, OmniRide is offering free fares on its Local and Metro Express services during the pandemic to minimize interactions between bus operators and riders and allow customers to board quickly and self-distance more effectively.
Food and Meals
Prince William County Public Schools are offering free to-go meals to all children under the age of 18 from 9:00am-11:00am at certain school sites. Sites within the Occoquan District are: John D. Jenkins Elementary School (4060 Prince William Parkway, Woodbridge) and Lake Ridge Middle School (12350 Mohican Road, Woodbridge).
ACTS, Northern Virginia Family Service’s SERVE and the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry received additional funding from the Board of County Supervisors to help provide food to those in need in the community.
- ACTS – 703-441-8606
- NVFS SERVE – 571-748-2680
- Haymarket Regional Food Pantry – 703-963-5918
The Cooperative Council of Ministries provides meals to the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center, the Overnight Shelter (currently located at Ferlazzo) and the Drop-In Center. This includes sandwiches to take out.
Streetlight Food Pantry (1550 Prince William Pkwy Ste B, Woodbridge) is operating every Tuesday from 10am-12pm providing items such as prepared sandwiches, power bars, and other food items. Streetlight is also distributing critically needed supplies such as propane for cooking, heating, water, and MRE’s.
House of Mercy’s food pantry (8170 Flannery Court, Manassas) is operating Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm for drive-thru service. Knock on the red door and return to your car. A staff member will be out to assist you.
Help Us Grow Strong (HUGS) is working on a donation drive in order to continue to supply food to the unsheltered and homeless while their outreach operations are temporarily suspended. The donation list will include items like gift cards to restaurants with drive thrus as well as non-perishables such as shelf yogurt, shelf milk (single portion sizes), instant oatmeal, fruit, and pudding cups. Their outreach efforts will go directly to the unsheltered and homeless who may not have visited the Drop-In Center or relocated to a shelter. This list will be updated here and to stay connected with HUGS follow them on Facebook.
Additional food pantries and food resources are available in the County. Learn more by contacting the Cooperative Council of Ministries or the Greater Prince William Food Council. A directory of food pantries is being compiled and once completed will be shared.
DSS and community partners have been diligent about providing information about COVID-19 to individuals seeking services as well as during outreach. Many unsheltered and homeless individuals also have access to smart phones. However, access to electricity and wifi is now more limited with dining rooms at restaurants and libraries being closed.
The County has created a one-page guide with resources for the unsheltered and homeless that can be printed out. There is also a COVID-19 fact sheet available from the CDC.
How You Can Help
You can support the County’s efforts in supporting the unsheltered and homeless population in several ways:
- Help spread the word about the Coordinated Entry System and the programs available through the Department of Social Services. There are programs available to prevent people from becoming homeless as well. Someone you know might need support and might not be aware of CES.
- Research and support the various organizations working to support unsheltered and homeless people including Streetlight Outreach Ministries, Action in Community Through Service (ACTS), and Help Us Grow Strong (HUGS). You can provide support through cash and food donations as well as volunteering for advertised positions or providing capacity building support such as marketing, strategic planning, and other professional services.
- Consider donating hygienic supplies including body wipes, deodorant, pads/tampons, and hand sanitizer. Many unsheltered homeless maintained memberships at nearby gyms in order to access showers and with fitness centers being mandated to close this resource is no longer available.
- Sign up for ACTS’ Food Rescue app and become a Food Rescue hero. You’ll be notified when a food pick up is available in your area and the app will tell you where to deliver it. There is a lot of need for volunteers in this capacity and the need continues to grow as the self-isolation period grows longer.
- Print and distribute the one page resource guide and fact sheet especially if your organization works with the unsheltered and homeless.
- Get involved in the Prince William County Continuum of Care including joining a committee. Opportunities may be limited during the emergency.
Thank you to Prince William County Department of Social Services and Department of Communications for their help in gathering this information. Additional contributions are from Streetlight Outreach Ministries, Action in Community Through Service (ACTS), and Help Us Grow Strong (HUGS). Supervisor Boddye would like to also thank the County staff and all our community partners who are working tirelessly and selflessly to serve the unsheltered and homeless population especially during this critical time.