UPDATE 12/1: County Relents On Churches' Food Service To Homeless

Updated 12/1
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) blamed overzealous county employees for the policy to restrict church charitable food service to the homeless when he announced yesterday that county government would not interfere with the work. The news is here.

Originally posted 11/29
Unless they are prepared in kitchens that meet the same tough health code requirements for restaurants, meals provided by church homeless shelters are forbidden, say county officials. A front page article from today's Washington Post is here.

What's your opinion? Some community leaders say that to most homeless people, the chance for a hot, home-cooked meal would outweigh any consideration of the slight chance of contracting a food-borne illness. Should the county be getting into this?

UPDATE: This afternoon the county released the following statement in response to the Washington Post's front page story.

Fairfax County Response to Misinformation About Feeding the Homeless Work Continues on 10-Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness "Nobody and no bureaucratic regulation will interfere with Fairfax County's ability to feed and help the homeless this winter," vowed Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly. "Fairfax County leads the region in a comprehensive approach to ending homelessness, and we won't turn our back on our community now." Today's Washington Post article about feeding the homeless was incorrect about several items. The facts are:
There is no "new Fairfax County policy." The county has had a food code in effect for many years that is consistent with the Virginia state code and the FDA national model food code. Fairfax County has issued a temporary permit so that nutritious, hot food can be served. There was never any proposal to shut down any shelters. In fact, beginning Nov. 1, three of the five county-owned, nonprofit-operated shelters expanded their capacities to handle the potential of more single individuals who might seek shelter. Fairfax County has a targeted hypothermia program. Beginning Dec. 1, faith communities, in partnership with nonprofit organizations and the county, will open hypothermia centers for single adults who need shelter during cold winter nights. Centers will be offered from the late afternoon through the overnight in local faith community facilities, on a weekly rotating basis, until March 31. The Fairfax County government, nonprofit organizations, faith communities and others are working collaboratively to provide both shelter and food and ensure the safety of homeless individuals this winter. People will be housed and fed in our community, keeping people alive this winter that otherwise would be at great risk. "We truly appreciate the efforts of the faith community to give of their own time, facilities and resources, especially at such a busy holiday time," said Connolly. "We all have the same goal -- to protect everyone this winter." "The county is providing support from many agencies, focusing staff, resources and funding on this effort," said Anthony H. Griffin, Fairfax County executive. "We want to reassure the public that baked goods such as cookies, cakes, brownies and cupcakes that are prepared at home, as well as packaged or canned foods such as purchased lasagna, may still be donated to the hypothermia centers, and we appreciate this kind assistance from our community." In 2005, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed an ambitious goal of ending homelessness in 10 years. A total of more than 2,000 single individuals and families are homeless in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. Fairfax County is leading the fight against homelessness, working with a community-wide team of government, business, philanthropic, nonprofit and faith community members. The 10-year plan is part of a national effort that more than 200 communities are participating in, following guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For more information about the hypothermia program, contact Merni Fitzgerald at 703-324-3189, TTY 711. Volunteers and additional church facilities are still needed for the hypothermia program. To provide assistance, please contact FACETS at 703-352-5090, TTY 711. For more information about the county's emergency shelters, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/factsheets/emershelter.htm. For more information about efforts to prevent and end homelessness, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/homeless. For more information about the new Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter, scheduled to open in spring 2007, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/factsheets/kkh_familyshelter_factsheet.htm.

By Focus on Fairfax |  November 29, 2006; 10:36 AM ET  | Category:  Government , Health Care, Hospitals , Human Services , Religion
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