VIRGINIA

Homeless shelter waiting lists growing rapidly

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A Northern Virginia mother said it took her two months to find shelter after she was left homeless. And shelters in the area say this has become a common problem.

"It was stressful. It was tedious,” says Shavone, who wouldn’t share her last name for privacy reasons.

Shavone remembers her eviction came days after her older daughter’s birthday.

"It’s pretty scary not knowing where you or your family is going to go,” she says.

Shavone is part of the list of women caught in the back log of people trying to get into homeless shelters.

The Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless is helping her, but the shelter’s Director Sam Kelly has an ongoing waiting list.

In just a year, that list grew from five to 25 families, Kelly said.

"It wasn't simple trying to find in this area a place to stay,” Shavone says. “It was an experience that I would not wish on anybody or want to go through again."

"We are always filled to capacity,” says Cathy Hassinger, who runs Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Alexandria.

"If we don't have a bed we can't just make one appear,” she says. "We may exit a family on a Tuesday, and then another family is moving in on a Wednesday."

Hassinger thinks part of the problem is the lack of low income housing in Fairfax County so families have a hard time finding a home once they leave the shelter.

At Bethany House, the number of calls since 2008 has doubled, she say. Part of the reason is because of what they call financial abuse which involves abuses based on the family’s financial challenges.

Bethany House’s policy is not to turn anybody away, but if it can't take women it tries to find another domestic violence shelter.

The goal is to get people out of a dangerous situation, but the reality is sometimes that is tough.

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