‘We need to make sure dignity is available to these people:’ Local motels to shelter homeless Christmas Eve

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Quarterpath Inn owner Doug Pons stands in front of the hotel, where several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Quarterpath Inn owner Doug Pons stands in front of the motel, where several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

Quarterpath Inn owner and city council member Doug Pons believes when he has the ability to help people, he should.

That’s why Pons has opened the door for several local residents who are experiencing homelessness to stay in three rooms at his motel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

This year, around two dozen homeless Historic Triangle residents will spend Christmas warm and well-fed in three local motels, thanks to a partnership between local, faith-based nonprofit Community of Faith Mission (COFM), area churches and the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association.

“It’s always been my personal philosophy that when I have the opportunity to help when I’m asked, I should,” Pons said.

Starting around 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, COFM’s shelter guests will check in to rooms at the Quarterpath Inn on York Street, the Pineapple Inn on Richmond Road and a third anonymous motel, COFM Executive Director Ashley Willis said.

“People need to have their own space, where they can have their own Christmas traditions – it’s harder to do those things when you’re in a shelter,” said Fred Liggin, a minister at the Williamsburg Christian Church and founder of 3e Restoration, a Williamsburg nonprofit that supports individuals experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty through relational and holistic services.

On Christmas Eve night, the motel guests are also invited to Saturday evening’s Christmas Eve service and dinner at the Williamsburg Christian Church, although it’s not required.

“There’s no catch, they just need to want to eat and not eat alone,” Liggin said.

Quarterpath Inn owner Doug Pons stands in the office of the motel, where several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Quarterpath Inn owner Doug Pons stands in the office of the motel, where several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

If the guests choose to stay in their motel rooms, volunteers from the church will deliver the holiday meals directly to them, along with additional items for breakfast and lunch on Christmas day.

“We just want to make sure they have a nice holiday meal,” Willis said.

The Williamsburg Church of Christ will provide dinner for the guests on Christmas day.

Five shelter Christmases

For 126 consecutive days during the winter months, COFM provides overnight shelter for up to 25 people each night, Willis said. COFM operates the only emergency homeless shelter in the Williamsburg area, nonprofit co-founder Renee Collins said.

The location of the shelter, which accepts men, women and children, rotates weekly between area churches.

Although COFM Faith has given shelter to the homeless on Christmas since 2012, the nonprofit’s leaders decided last year to make Christmas extra special. Working with local motels and the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association, they arranged motel rooms for the shelter guests to stay in Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, Willis said.

“This is a super busy time of year for the individual faith-based groups that work with us, and with their schedules and worship services, in the end it seems like this is a great way to handle the holiday at the shelter,” Willis said

Several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight at the Quarterpath Inn on Christmas Eve. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Several people without homes on Christmas will stay overnight at the Quarterpath Inn on Christmas Eve. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

This year is the second year shelter guests have stayed at local motels for Christmas, Willis said.

For Pons, the winter is when business at his motel tapers off due to changes in tourism, meaning he has more room to donate to COFM at Christmas time.

“At one time, we would’ve been at capacity at this time of year,” Pons said, referring to a peak in area tourism in the 1980’s. “But now we have more room to do other things like this.”

Being present

Williamsburg Christian Church has hosted the shelter on Christmas week almost every year since COFM was founded in 2012.

The Quarterpath Inn on York Street is decorated for the Christmas holiday. Several people without homes on Christmas will stay at the inn overnight Christmas Eve. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
The Quarterpath Inn on York Street is decorated for the Christmas holiday. Several people without homes on Christmas will stay at the inn overnight Christmas Eve. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

“We never used to do a Christmas Eve dinner, but it made sense for us to start doing one because people who live on the margins of our community are really a large part of who were are as a congregation,” Liggin said. “No one in our church eats alone, and that includes our friends living through homelessness.”

Of the church’s 330-member congregation, about two-thirds volunteer with COFM for shelter operations, Liggin said, adding that Christmas week requires “a lot of boots on the ground.”

Beyond assisting with general shelter operations, volunteers are needed simply to be present with those who are homeless, Liggin said, because Christmas week is difficult and lonely for those living through poverty or who are homeless.

“We need to make sure dignity is available to these people,” Liggin said. “People living through homelessness are intelligent, capable, beautiful men and women who, for a host of reasons, find themselves in a very deep, dark hole.”

“It’s nice to have someone jump in that hole with you.”

Fearing can be reached at 207-975-5459.