NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As colder temperatures settle into the region, Norfolk is launching its annual push to get the community’s homeless into shelters at night. But, they will also now have a place to go during the day.
The city has run its Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team — or NEST — for several years. Through partnerships with several different groups, including the Norfolk Department of Human Services, the team provides meals and shelter to homeless single adults during the winter months.
Typically, churches provide overnight shelter on a rotating basis. But not in 2020 — the year of COVID-19.
“Many of them have been closed for months. So they would not be available,” said James Rogers, a Deputy City Manager for Norfolk, to City Council Tuesday afternoon. “We knew we needed additional partners.”
Rogers said not only are they short on building space, but also volunteers. He said many are in high-risk categories when comes to contracting the virus.
In a twist however, a partial solution has been in operation for months.
The Community Service Board started a daily hotel housing program this summer using COVID-19 funding. Rogers said it provides 120 homeless adults, considered “most vulnerable” to the health effects of the coronavirus, safe on-site access to support services.
That program plans to continue.
But Rogers said that left roughly 40-homeless people still without a place to go.
First Presbyterian Church in Ghent answered the call and agreed to host the first six-weeks of NEST.
“Remarkable outpouring of help from the community,” Rogers said. “That will give us some leeway to begin building capacity at other churches as well.”
Traditionally, when the shelter closes in the morning, those staying there would disperse across the city. Often finding refuge in a library, rec center, or business per Rogers.
This year, however, New Hope Church-God in Christ in Park Place has offered to provide “day services.”
“So once those folks leave NEST. Those 30 or 40 people leave NEST. [The church] will be able to offer those folks showers, food, clothing, shelters, right in place at his location,” Rogers said.
Hampton Roads Transit bus passes will be used to move people from shelter to shelter.
“The community has said, ‘I will raise my hand and participate to help get this done’,” Rogers said.
Members from the city will help both churches make sure everything is done with health protocols in mind.
NEST starts Wednesday Dec. 2nd at 6:30 p.m. with the opening of the shelter at First Presbyterian.