Organization hosts Forum in Staunton to discuss immediate needs of homeless people

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 9:39 PM EST
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Elaine Rose, President of Building Bridges for the Gretter Good, said the topic of the forum was meeting the immediate needs of homeless people.

“I wanted us to do something that would make an impact right now. I realized we needed to do something for the winter months to keep the homeless population alive and safe,” said Rose. “It gave us a lot of information, it allowed us to see what they do and allowed me to ask the question, what do they need.”

Susan Richardson, Executive Director of Valley Mission, said topics discussed including the collective state of people experiencing homelessness in the region, the things to community can do to help those who are experiencing homelessness, and the stigma and myths around being homeless.

“It was just a really good community conversation for us to kind of forge a path forward to be able to help one another,” said Richardson.

Richardson said many want to feel connected to their community, especially during this time of the year.

“They just want to have a sense of belonging so they can find housing and they become productive citizens in the community,” said Richardson.

Richardson said while the number of clients at Valley Mission has remained stable, in the region, the number of homeless people has gone up.

“Rent is very expensive and it is very difficult for our folks to find affordable housing,” said Richardson.

The last few weeks, Rose said Building Bridges for the Greater Good has been collecting warm winter clothes, shoes, coats, boots, and blankets.

“We have been collecting food, we want to give out 500 to 1,000 blessing bags on Thanksgiving and Christmas in Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro,” said Rose.

Rose said homelessness can impact anyone.

“If we tell the truth all of us are one hardship event away from being homeless. Whether it is an illness, losing your job, something like COVID-19, that causes you to lose your job. It could be life’s expenses right now. It could be your children get sick, it could mental health, drugs or alcohol,” said Rose.

Rebecca Joyce, Housing Planner and Grants Coordinator for the City of Staunton said city staff was present at this forum.

The city is active with the organizations that assist homeless people and will continue to attend those meetings and participate with the organizations, said Joyce.

“We do assist through our community development block grant program, we do give some funding to some of the housing providers and nonprofit organizations who assist with homelessness,” said Joyce.

Rose said they are planning to have another meeting like this one around March of 2024.