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Bulova Talks Poverty, High Cost of Housing in Fairfax County

The chairman of the Board of Supervisors was part of a panel at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria on Thursday that included poverty experts.

Residents of Fairfax County who make minimum wage could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still couldn’t afford to live in a one bedroom apartment due to high housing prices, said the chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday.

That may be why 50 percent of the county’s approximately 1,500 homeless people have jobs but live in the woods, shelters or cars, said Sharon Bulova, speaking at a panel on poverty held at in Alexandria. Fairfax County has a population of 1.1 million with 60,000 people classified as living in poverty.

“They don’t make enough money to keep a roof over their heads,” she said. “Housing is expensive.”

She said the county works closely with its school system to ensure that students who live at the poverty level have a roof and food. Children have become the poorest age group in the country and it’s usually those who are being raised by single mothers who are the poorest, according to poverty experts who also spoke on the panel.

Other panelists were Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, and Peter Edelman, co-founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Panelists were interviewed by public television talk show host Tavis Smiley and author and educator Cornel West as part of Smiley and West's "Poverty Tour" to eight states.

“We are committed to ending homelessness as we know it,” Bulova said.

She recalled moving into a new neighborhood, going out for a run and stumbling across a homeless camp with three members that was “one mile from my new home. This was my neighbor and I needed to care about that.”

The county, which had a median household income of over $100,000 in 2009, now has an office specifically charged with preventing homelessness, she said. In 2009, Virginia had a median income of $59,330 and the United States, $50,221.

She added that the county’s faith community has been instrumental in raising awareness about the region’s homelessness issue. Churches, mosques and synagogues recently all participated in an organized anti-hypothermia program, raising awareness among their members.

In turn, it became a personal issue to those members who then “turned to the Fairfax government and said we want to address this” as a community, Bulova said.

“An impediment to our progress would be denial,” she said. “We have to acknowledge we have pockets of poverty.”   

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Jonathan Erickson September 15, 2012 at 09:37 AM
Well thanks for that awareness update I am sure that the cold people out there feel all warm and fuzzy now.It do appear that the homeless need to be paid more per hour. Don't be raising my taxes to pay for your pet projects of which you have shown that you are not capable of handling. Throwing more money at a problem is not always the solution and that's what Bulova wants to do.We should tax the churches, mosques a synagogues and all other non-profits especially the political campaigns to help offset the plight of the homeless and tose of us living in poverty.
Kevin Maxson September 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM
So you want to take the money from the faith communities who are helping the homeless and give it to the government to do the same? Because the government will do it better?
Jonathan Erickson September 15, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Absolutely and tax all homeowner associations, civil association and political parties. Prime example are the Democrats the Republicans and how about Delguadio's group, NAACP, MDS any tax free organization. It sure appears your faith in faith communities to resolve the issue is misplaced and unwarranted maybe it's just for the feeling you get by donating $20.00.
chefgio1 September 15, 2012 at 06:58 PM
How about rescinding the teacher raises which very few, if any government worker received, and help these poor people. Make sure that who ever gets these funds (if a miracle happens) that any public funds are give to legitimate US citizens. When my parents came here they did not have the support systems that many immigrants legal or not have today.
Douglas Manuel September 16, 2012 at 11:16 AM
I read the article (twice) and other than rhetoric and observations, I did not see that she specifically stated what action, other than 'to end homelessness as we know it' she is taking, when she is taking it or what resources she intends to utilize to do this. Did I miss something?

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