As the temperatures lower, many wonder what services are available for those without shelter from the cold. The Prince William County Homeless Services Unit with the Department of Social Services leads the Prince William Area Continuum of Care to coordinate comprehensive services to families and vulnerable individuals affected by homelessness in our area. These services range from meals, showers, clothing and a bed to sleep in to assistance in meeting health, employment, education and housing needs.
A major component of homeless services is sheltering. The county coordinates services at two shelters in the county, as well as a drop-in center, to serve different segments of the homeless population.
The shelter formerly known as the Winter Shelter, at 14730 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge, now serves as a year-round overnight shelter for up to 48 adults. The county's Department of Social Services Residential Services Division Chief, Levi Bass, said, "It is specifically for single men and women. Streetlight Ministries, a private, non-profit provider, operates that shelter via contract with the county. The reason we felt the need to open the overnight shelter year-round is because there is a population experiencing homelessness who live in camps, and we want to make sure that those folks have a place to go to make it easier for them to seek services to obtain permanent housing."
The Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center, at 14945 Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge, serves families year-round. The 30-bed shelter, operated by contract by Northern Virginia Family Service, offers comprehensive services including housing location, job readiness, mental health and medical referrals.
The Bill Mehr Drop-In Center is where those experiencing homelessness can go to get showers, meals and daily hygiene items. The Drop-In Center, at 14716 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge, offers access to mental health, medical and dental referrals, employment services and substance abuse counseling.
"Last year's 'Point-In-Time' count found 400 persons experiencing homelessness in the Prince William area," Bass said. "The primary mission of the shelters is to decrease homelessness in the community and help folks connect with permanent housing. Our goal is to reduce the homeless population in the Prince William area."
For more information about homeless services in the county, visit www.pwcgov.org/dss and click "Homeless Services." For more information on the Continuum of Care and how your organization can join to help end homelessness, click "PWC Continuum of Care."