On Your Side: Helping the homeless in RVA

On Your Side: Helping the homeless in RVA

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - NBC 12 is receiving a spike in calls for help from mothers with children sleeping in cars.

After seeing how NBC 12 helped put one family in a home, Marcie Jones and others are calling seeking the same thing. That led us to ask: where do the homeless go in the city for help?

Putting the homeless in homes is overwhelming, but it's what a few organizations in Richmond attempt to do every day, and sometimes they fail.

Marcie Jones and her two daughters, the youngest who has autism, have lived out of a van for more than a year. A van is not a home, but it does block the cold, and it's a roof over their heads.

"I need for my children to have some place they can call their own to not have to sleep on Mommy's lap," said Jones. "I don't know what else to do. Where to go."

Commonwealth Catholic Charities manages the Homeless Point of Entry, a central intake center. They talk to the person seeking shelter. They gather information and call family and friends. They check their data base to find shelter beds around the city. If Homeless Point of Entry sounds dismal, mothers who contacted NBC 12 say it's an abyss with little hope for housing.

"You have to get up every day and you call to see if there's any availability for you," said Jones. "You're told every day, day after day, 'no, we can't help you.' It's hard when you've got little ones. I don't share that with my children."

It's not a perfect system, but it's where anyone seeking services must go or call.  Shelter slots are prioritized.  Those with the most need get a bed. People typically come expecting to get shelter right away.

"We are here on a walk-in basis. You can come back as many times as you need to," said Division Director for Housing Services Jay Brown. "People do check in with us on a daily basis, and that's not because we're trying to make things difficult. It's because their situation has changed. They may become eligible for something from one day to the next."

Jones says she will continue to call daily and try to stay strong for her girls.

"I don't ever want them to become tainted and see the negative side and get to the point where they will say, no one really cares, they're not going to help me," said Jones.

There just isn't enough resources to meet demand.

"That is absolutely the worst case scenario, and it's failure for us," said Brown. "We do every single thing we can to think out of the box."

Shelters need donations and, more importantly, volunteers. Many of them are underfunded and understaffed. Volunteering your time is the best way to help. You can reach Commonwealth Catholic Charities Homeless Point of Entry by calling (804) 648-4177.

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