Residents Urged to be Proactive in Supporting Alexandrians Experiencing Homelessness

Page updated on Mar 15, 2021 at 10:20 AM

Residents Urged to be Proactive in Supporting Alexandrians Experiencing Homelessness


Homeless ServicesFebruary 17, 2021--As winter weather continues to be forecast in the region, the Department of Community and Human Services urges residents to be proactive in supporting community members who are experiencing homelessness. 

If you encounter a resident who looks to be in need of housing supports, there are several ways you can help:

  • If you have engaged the resident in conversation and learn that they are in need of supportive services, let them know they can call 703.746.5700, text 703.346.5599 or walk-in for services at the Homeless Services Assessment Center (2525 Mount Vernon Ave.) during business hours. Staff will support residents by identifying the next steps in assisting them with their current situation. 

  • During the winter months, advise them of the City's Winter Shelter Program run by Carpenter's Shelter (703.548.7500), which is open daily from 7 p.m. - 7 a.m. through March 2021.

  • If you aren’t comfortable engaging in conversion,  contact Alex 311 to report your observations; please refrain from taking photos of residents experiencing homelessness out of respect for their privacy. Your report will be sent to the DCHS staff, who will go out and speak to the person within 24-48 business hours and offer available support and resources.

  • For more immediate welfare checks, call the police non-emergency line at 703.746.4444.

The City takes a “continuum of care” approach to homelessness designed to promote community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness. The Office of Community Services and their partners--which range from other City programs and services to national and local nonprofits like Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America Chesapeake, Carpenter’s Shelter, Community Lodgings and ALIVE!--coordinate together to provide a wide range of services, minimize the trauma associated with homelessness and dislocation, and optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Helping residents experiencing homelessness is often complex and challenging. As many different people you encounter who are homeless, there are that many different stories. The causes of homelessness include the national housing crisis and lack of low-income housing, unemployment, decreasing opportunities for work and the erosion of safety net programs. Often people experience the loss of a job or have a health crisis that leaves them choosing between paying the rent or paying for an expensive prescription or medical care. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the national housing crisis, putting many at risk of eviction, foreclosure and homelessness. 

Transitioning residents out of homelessness can be a slow process, which sometimes takes years. According to, people experiencing chronic homelessness (those who have experienced homelessness for at least a year) typically have complex and long-term conditions, such as mental health issues, substance use disorders, physical disabilities or other conditions. Once someone becomes homeless, it is difficult for them to get back into housing and they can face long or repeated episodes of homelessness.

DCHS proactively and regularly reaches out and engages residents experiencing homelessness year around, offering the effective and essential safety net services designed to improve their lives and transition them out of homelessness. DCHS values individual personal choice and self-determination and does not force services on anyone, but staff work hard to ensure everyone is aware of the supportive services with the City and their right to access them and transition out of homelessness.

Learn about more ways you can help or raise awareness about homelessness from resources shared during the 2020 National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month and 2020 National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Awareness Week.

Updated on February 18, 2021, to include information about welfare checks and the police non-emergency line, and updated March 15, 2021 to correct the DCHS text line.