Roanoke nonprofit says community needs to work together to address homelessness

A person sleeping on the sidewalk in downtown Roanoke on Friday afternoon.
A person sleeping on the sidewalk in downtown Roanoke on Friday afternoon.(Will Thomas)
Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 4:49 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “In 2011, we lived in Salem and I felt cogged to do inner city ministry. So we packed up and we moved to Gilmer Avenue in Roanoke City and just wanted to live among the people we serve.”

Dawn Sandoval is the Founder of The Least of These Ministry. Operations began out of the back of her team’s personal cars and has grown tremendously in its 10 years.

“We have a building with two showers, and laundry, and an ambulance, and a warming bus, and housing, and it’s just been, you can’t put it into words.”

The Least of These Ministry focuses on giving unsheltered people a place to shower, do laundry, provide food and ultimately the resources needed to move on from homelessness. It’s a need Sandoval said has grown during the pandemic.

“We are being contacted by a lot more people who are living in their vehicles, that they kind of are under the radar. They’re not the people you see reaching out for a lot of homeless services. They were cast into homelessness through loss of employment, so they don’t know how to navigate a lot of those services.”

Sandoval also said the recent ordinance banning camping on sidewalks is a step in the wrong direction.

“I don’t feel that we should criminalize homelessness. With fines that obviously our homeless friends can’t pay and I think more than anything it has brought to the forefront that there needs to be some options.”

She believes the community as a whole needs to move forward together, to address homelessness.

“It just takes a matter of a group of like minded people. Who have compassion and want to see something different, in the way of homelessness and how its addressed, just coming together and making it happen.”

For more information on The Least of These Ministry, you can find its website here and Facebook here.

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