Monday, October 26, 2009

I Wish I Didn't Have This Post To Make

The local media has noted the rise in homelessness due to the recession. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms has stated he doesn't believe we can close the Winter Shelter program next Spring. Taking the bus to and from this evening's Comprehensive Plan meeting, I got to see the problem firsthand.

Four stops down the line from where I boarded, a homeless man got on the bus. He started asking the Operator about one program. It turned out much of the information he had been given before boarding was wrong, so I tried to help him. He sat in a seat near mine so we could talk easily. As we approached the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center (JCOC), I pointed out his stop to him and gave him a final briefing. It turned out that another man within earshot was homeless, had slept in the Winter Shelter program last night, and was heading back. The first man followed him off the bus. My reward for the day was the look he gave me as he disembarked.

It got worse. I caught the bus home at the Oceanfront Library stop. There were three women there who had been turned away by Winter Shelter because all the slots for tonight were full. At the JCOC stop, another woman boarded who appeared to be homeless. Later a couple Hardee's employees joined us who were heading home from work for the night, bringing chicken with them. They gave the one woman sitting adjacent to them a couple pieces of chicken. One of the original trio got off the bus in the Oceana area. The other three were still onboard when we reached my home stop; I have no idea where they were going for the night.

For those unfamiliar, Virginia Beach has two homeless shelter programs. The JCOC is a year-round program with it's own buildings in the Seatack neighborhood. Winter Shelter is administered by the Volunteers of America, but doesn't operate during the Summer months. Winter Shelter is hosted by a different church each week, with the homeless provided a mat to sleep on in the church. They are fed before being sent out for the day; in my previous parish, the Knights of Columbus cooked them breakfast. Evening pickup is at the JCOC after the free dinner there, with transportation provided to the church for the night.

A writer in Port Folio (back when they had the print edition) once commented that the cities in our region are in a competition to cut services for the needy, to try to drive their poor into the neighboring cities. The regional nature of the homeless issue wasn't lost on me tonight: the bus those three women were on was going to cross the line into Norfolk in a few minutes. Hampton Roads, we have a problem.

5 comments:

blog said...

An organization that I was involved in - St. Columba Ecumenical Ministries, based in Norfolk - started the Winter Shelter program in Virginia Beach back in the 1980s, before we handed it off to the VOA. That we - some 25 years later - are still dealing with the homeless issue says that we do indeed have a problem.

I wish I knew the answer.

Avenging Archangel said...

The Catch-22 is that on the one hand you want to provide some services, but on the other hand, providing too many becomes a magnet that draws homeless to your area.

If Winter Shelter is already turning away people with the weather still relatively mild, we're going to have a disaster on our hands when it gets cold and homeless start coming out of the woods.

William Bailey said...

Just wait until the new gov has to move funding from all General Fund programs to make his roads plan work. We are going to face a nightmare with those poor homeless folks. With no new money and the plan to use existing funds, there will be no program left intact to help them.

It is bad enough now but the future looks even worse for them.

Avenging Archangel said...

William,

Nice to see that you're ready to throw in the towel on Dirty Deeds. That bet panned out as well for your union as Reba McClanan.

You know as well as I do that McDonnell's Transportation Plan is DOA in the Senate. Hopefully, a compromise plan can be put together out of the remnants of it. After all, Bob was a negotiator on the two previous Transportation plans for Hampton Roads.

Back on topic, I did the post Monday night to try to raise awareness of the issue. Outside of those currently working with the homeless, how many knew how bad it was?

William Bailey said...

I didn't pick Deeds as my #1 choice in the primary race but he is a better choice the McD in the general. But hey, even I can read the poll numbers. BTW: I've already voted for Deeds so my lot is cast in this election.

Back on topic: We all know more than homeless folks are going to be hurt by the funding transfers that must occur. Frankly the cuts to ALL social programs across Virginia is going to hurt many. The cuts to fund the transportation issues plus the budget hole are going to get everyone sooner or later. The more the go & bob cuts, the more people are hurt in education, public safety and overall quality of life all across Virginia.

Good news that McD has a very short time to do his "jobs gov and transportation plan" role or he kills the gop in the next go around. My taxes have to go down AND my roads better better or the gop pays on the next election day. So in some ways, I wish the gop success in 2010 but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Drill baby drill!! LOL I know my taxes are going down after January: right? Or are we going to start the excuses right away? I'm betting on excuses...