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While some are off work and kids are home from school in observance of Presidents Day, there’s a population of people who’ll rely on shelters to keep their doors open for a little while longer so they have somewhere to spend the holiday.
For those facing homelessness in Hampton and Newport News, Hampton Roads Ecumenical Lodgings & Provisions, or HELP, keeps its shelters open on days when city offices would typically be closed and rely on volunteers to help make it happen.
“Our guests who are homeless don’t necessarily have the same resources to go home when city offices are closed,” said Matthew Stearn, HELP’s executive director. “Many of them use the main library as a place to go to check email or to be out of the weather so if city offices are closed that limits access to somewhere decent or warm.”
Typically, guests are expected to leave the shelter at 7 a.m., taking their belongings with them and then come back at around 6 p.m. should they need to stay another night.
On Monday though, the organization has rallied groups of volunteers to make sure those staying in the shelter during the day will have a hot lunch served.
The organization’s “Day Center” usually provides somewhere for people to shower, do laundry, and access the internet on a first-come, first-served basis, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. three days per week. The center also allows people to use it as their physical mailing address.
And during the “21 coldest weeks” of the year, HELP partners with local churches to provide those facing homelessness a warm place to sleep, toiletries, and two hot meals in a program they call, “A Night’s Welcome,” according to the website.
Last year, the program provided more than 6,000 bed nights of shelter for more than 340 people with the support of 17,000 hours of volunteer service.
Its programs combined are run with the assistance of about 30,000 volunteer hours per year to accomplish their day-to-day operations, even on holidays, Stearn said.
“When everybody else has a day off, that does complicate things for people who are dependent on the resources,” he said.
Learn more about HELP and how to become involved in their projects by clicking here.