Challenges Don’t Take a Holiday

What about those experiencing hunger and homelessness?

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and the countdown to a new year. On Thursday, many will gather with family and friends in a welcoming home. After the kisses, hugs and updates, and stories told once again that always bring smiles, conversations might shift to emerging issues that are on the horizon in Fairfax County — casinos or data centers, possibly — or those concerning the more local community.

Looking over at the tables and counters, groaning under the weight of food and drink, and feeling the home warm and toasty, perhaps thoughts of those less fortunate people experiencing homelessness and hunger will come to mind.

THE CONNECTION asked Fairfax County Board of Supervisors members to share their thoughts on some hot-button issues, the factors influencing them, and where they stand now. 

* Possible casino along the Silver Line, especially if such impacts their districts

* Data centers in their district and elsewhere in the county

* Pending board item, consideration, or action proposed to come before the supervisors before January 1, 2024, that matters most to them and why

POSSIBLE CASINO along the Silver Line, especially if such impacts your district 

James Walkinshaw, Braddock District Supervisor: I'm skeptical that a casino would make sense in Fairfax County and even more skeptical that it would have any hope of passing by referendum, as Virginia law requires. But if the General Assembly intends to consider legislation regarding a potential casino, it has to be a local option so that the decision is made at the local level with input from the community. 

John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor: We need to focus development along the Silver Line on creating communities where employers want to locate and families want to live. In my opinion, a casino would not be consistent with those goals. I believe that any net economic benefits to the county would be relatively insignificant and that any benefits that might be derived would be outweighed by the problems a casino could create. 

Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor: There has been a lot of discussion in the community and reported in local media regarding a gambling casino being built in Hunter Mill District along Metro's Silver Line. At [last week's] Board of Supervisors meeting, I reiterated my opposition to the gambling casino proposed in SB 1543 and HB 2499   during the last session of the General Assembly. Organizations such as Reston Association and Reston Citizens Association have also voiced their strong opposition. While there is no active proposal on the table at this time, I asked the county executive for further information about the process for casino authorization that will be shared with the Board of Supervisors and the community before the beginning of the 2024 General Assembly session. (Oct. 25 Weekly Hunter Mill District News)

Rodney L. Lusk, Franconia District Supervisor: I have concerns about developing casinos in Fairfax County because they tend to attract patrons from the most vulnerable populations. These residents struggle to meet basic needs and are better served with support, resources, and opportunities instead of a casino and the distractions it may cause. 


James Walkinshaw, Braddock District Supervisor: Fairfax County currently has a modest number of data centers, and even with a handful of recent proposals, I don't expect that will change. Some of our neighboring jurisdictions have staked their economic development on hosting hundreds of data centers. Here in Fairfax County, data centers are a small part of our broader economic development strategy, and we are updating our environmental standards to ensure that we continue to push the envelope on energy efficiency, the use of renewables, and water quality protection.

John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor: Data centers have great potential to improve the County’s commercial tax base while also having the potential to do much harm if not properly regulated. The revenues data centers can generate to fund services in our County are significant, and unlike most other types of development, the County’s cost to service data centers is insignificant. I want to encourage data center development while being smart about how we do it. We are working with staff and the public to evaluate issues such as where data centers should be located and best practices for mitigating noise and water quality impacts. We also recognize that data centers can be eyesores, so we are looking at creating standards that regulate aspects of their appearance.

Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor: Waiting for the staff report that was discussed at the Land Use Policy Committee meeting. 

Rodney L. Lusk, Franconia District Supervisor: In Franconia District, we have one data center that is currently under construction, a 240,000-square-foot facility in an industrial area on Loisdale Road. This data center will replace two vacant office buildings built approximately eight years ago. The County should encourage data centers if they complement the proposed area and if they do not cause extensive negative environmental, energy or land use impacts to neighboring residential communities. 

WHAT PENDING BOARD ITEM, consideration, or action proposed to come before the supervisors before January 1, 2024, that matters most to you and why.

James Walkinshaw, Braddock District Supervisor: Earlier this year, I asked the Board to support the creation of the Task Force on the Future of Lake Accotink to help us develop a sustainable path forward for one of Fairfax County's most treasured assets, Lake Accotink. For months, they've been working alongside a new consulting team to identify new options, including a hybrid smaller lake/wetland option I asked them to consider. They'll submit their findings to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5 and present them at an Environmental Committee meeting on Dec. 12. 

John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor: My focus over the next two months is to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to Jimmy Bierman, Dranesville District’s Supervisor-Elect. I want to help with the transition as much as I can. 


Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor: Not at this time, but I will let you know if something comes up.

Rodney L. Lusk, Franconia District Supervisor: I am looking forward to the Data Center White Paper presentation and the Manufactured Housing Task Force Recommendations presentation, which are anticipated to be presented to the board before the end of the year. 

HIGHLIGHT winter weather clothing, shoes/boots, food, and gift drives. 

James Walkinshaw, Braddock District Supervisor: The Braddock District office hosts a year-round donation box for Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO). Donations of non-perishable items and clothing help individuals and families in need in the Burke/Springfield area. 

John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor: The Victim Services Division is gathering pajamas to distribute to the children they assist who are most in need. Donate a pair of new pajamas for children aged infant to 17, Nov. 6 - Dec. 18. Drop off at McLean District Station, 1437 Balls Hill Road, McLean

Virtual Stuff the Bus

Rodney L. Lusk, Franconia District Supervisor: Willie Bailey’s Fire Station 11 Toy Drive will be held on Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m. 

Additional Giving Opportunities

The Adult and Aging Division of Fairfax County's Department of Family Services is seeking new throw/lap blankets to give to clients for this year's holiday project. If you wish to make a difference by buying one or more, please select this link and fill out the information.Delivery/drop off new blankets by Dec. 4, 2023, to the Area Agency on Aging

Get involved with the Fairfax Food Council and explore ways to improve our food system and support healthy food access.

You can also help unsheltered people by donating to Fairfax County’s network of nonprofit partners seeking donations of clothing, furniture, school supplies and more. 

Job training, shelter support, fundraising, and other assistance are needed across the county. Volunteer opportunities can be found on the Volunteer Fairfax website.

Hunger and Homelessness in Fairfax County

Hunger and homelessness are not new problems in our community. As the holidays and cold weather approaches, these issues are top of mind.

Fairfax County Health and Human Services reports, food insecurity impacts more than 60,000 people in Fairfax County, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

According to Fairfax County Health and Human Services, during its 2023 Point in Time Count in January 2023, 1,310 people were unhoused in the county. Homeless numbers have increased. The 2023 Point in Time Count homelessness numbers represent an increase of 26 percent from 1,041 in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and up 36 percent from a historical low of 964 in 2017’s count. The biggest increase is in the number of people residing in emergency shelters.

Five years ago, 686 people were in shelters, but this increased by 53 percent to 1,049 people in the latest Point in Time Count. Forty-three percent of people experiencing homelessness in the latest count were under the age of 24, including 463 children.”

The Fairfax County 2023-24 Hypothermia Prevention Program will run from Dec. 1, 2023, until March 31, 2024. Allyson Pearce, Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority shared additional information about hypothermia in Fairfax County. 

The faith community’s compassion for Fairfax County’s most vulnerable neighbors is at the heart of its Hypothermia Prevention Program. “Over 40 houses of worship around the county rotate through the hypothermia period to provide extra warm space when needed. They open their houses of worship to provide overnight shelter,” Pearce said. They also volunteer their time and offer many in-kind donations, such as food. 

Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner provides some relevant data in its annual report. According to VDH’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's most recent annual report ( released July 2023, there were a total of 36 accidental deaths statewide in 2021 caused by exposure to cold.