Homeless, Precariously Housed Receive Services at Hands Together Historic Triangle

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Jennifer Howlett and her children Lyndon and Katy were all enthusiastic volunteers at Hands Together Historic Triangle. (Courtesy Natalie Miller Moore)
Jennifer Howlett and her children Lyndon and Katy were all enthusiastic volunteers at Hands Together Historic Triangle. (Courtesy Natalie Miller Moore)

Members of the community came together Monday for “Hands Together Historic Triangle,” a resource fair for the homeless and precariously housed of the greater Williamsburg area.

This annual event was created by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance’s LEAD Historic Class of 2013 as a “one-day, one-stop access to resources available in the community to help out neighbors in need,” according to the event website.

“If people come and their immediate need is to have a hot meal and get a haircut, we were able to provide that,” said Allison Brody, chairwoman of this year’s Hands Together Historic Triangle event. “If people have somewhere to live but need job resources, we can connect them. If they need their eyes or ears or blood pressure checked, we can do it.”

This year’s event took place at the Quarterpath Recreation Center on Monday and saw households of more than 300 people served, according to a recent news release.

Providers from all over the community attend the event, including social services agencies, nonprofits and local small businesses.

Several new providers joined this year’s event, including DMV Connect, which offered identification and license renewal, the Lewis Puller Veterans Benefit Clinic from the College of William & Mary, Conte’s Bike Shop, and Pigtails and Crewcuts, which provided free haircuts.

Two addiction- and recovery-related organizations, Bacon Street and SpiritWorks Foundation, also attended the event.

“Being here is a great way for people to see what is available in the community – not just guests, but volunteers and other organizations in the community,” said Jan Brown, the executive director of SpiritWorks, which provides recovery services for people dealing with addiction. “We look to see what other providers we don’t know and try to meet them.”

Hands Together Historic Triangle was also made possible through the work of volunteers from the community, many of whom worked as guides to help event attendees navigate the many services offered.

This year's Hands Together Historic Triangle took place at Quarterpath Recreation Center. (Courtesy Natalie Miller Moore)
This year’s Hands Together Historic Triangle took place at Quarterpath Recreation Center. (Courtesy Natalie Miller Moore)

Bobby Oliver volunteered for the first time as a navigator, guiding guests to the different tables and booths for services.

“After being a public school teacher for 36 years, I’ve seen everyone under the sun and worked with lots of different people,” said Bobbly Oliver, a first-time volunteer. “I think there is a high concentration of poverty in Williamsburg, but it’s hidden.”

Part of what makes Hands Together such a unique event, according to volunteers and organizers, is the way it anticipates the unique challenges of homelessness and precarious housing beyond covering basics like the need for food, shelter and medical care.

Inclusion of providers like Conte’s Bike shop allows attendees access to repairs to what is for many their only means of transportation.

Haircuts are a valuable service not only to people seeking employment but also for those who generally do not have the disposable income to afford them. One attendee, identified as Ms. Washington, received her first haircut since undergoing radiation as part of her cancer treatment – a luxury she previously could not afford because of the expense of her treatment.

“Hands Together is a reflection of the tremendous volunteer and giving spirit here in the Greater Williamsburg community,” said Liz Parman, the interim director of the United Way of Greater Williamsburg, the lead organization on the event this year. “United Way staff, board members, and volunteers are excited to be part of such a unique event and we are thrilled to see such an outpouring of support for the homeless and precariously housed in our community.”