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Homeless shelters prepare for influx of people facing uncertain future


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – For thousands of local families, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is the loss of their job and wondering if they’ll be able to stay in their homes.

Local homeless shelters are now preparing for an influx of people who may need help as several COVID relief programs expire at the end of the year.

Blue tape on the floor of the Peninsula Rescue Mission in Newport News marks where an extra 24 mats will go for homeless men.

“The guys will sleep head to toe,” said Peninsula Rescue Mission Director of Development Paul Speight.

The Lindley Building across the street from the shelter is typically used to store items and clothing for those hard up, but it’s now being prepared to house more people in need as they face an uncertain future.

Speight said they’re partnering with the city’s PORT winter shelter program to assist them with any overflow of people.

The Peninsula Rescue Mission is currently serving 33 men and expect more as several government relief programs end December 31.

“We know that times are hard for them,” Speight said. “A lot of us who work with the homeless population are still waiting, waiting to see what happens.”

It’s a waiting game for many as Congress continues to hammer out another COVID-19 relief bill to help the strained economy.

About 20,000 Virginians recently lost extended federal unemployment benefits and the state and federal eviction moratoriums are set to expire at the end of the year. As discussions on a coronavirus stimulus deal continue in the Capitol, many are left wondering if they’ll soon be out on the streets.

“They’re probably anxious and fearful of what’s going to happen at the end of the year,” said Speight. “They’re not going to have the normal, happy, merry Christmas that many of us are going to experience just because this deadline is looming over them.”

The Union Mission Ministries in Norfolk is also anticipating a surge in the number of people looking for shelter.

“These are people, we will say, often experience the harshness of these things first and experience the recovery last,” said Rev. John Gray, the shelter’s director.

Gray said The Union Mission is doing what they can to prepare for the increase in costs for food, care and other needs, as more people turn to them for help. He doesn’t expect the demand to die down anytime soon.

“Here at The Union Mission, we’re still going to have scores of men, women and families still recovering and still needing support for many, many days ahead,” Gray said. “You can imagine that we will still see people suffering the effects, not just of the virus, but of all of the things – the economic, the educational, the social impact.”

Both rescue missions rely on donations and the community’s support.

If you’d like to help the Peninsula Rescue Mission, click here. To help The Union Mission, click here. People can make a monetary contribution, donate items in need and help make the holidays a little brighter for those struggling.

People who are experiencing hardships and face possible eviction, can call the eviction helpline at 1-833-NO-EVICT.


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