NEWPORT NEWS — Recently, City Council voted to use the vacant Marine Reserve Center as the city’s new homeless center.
“This Day Services Center will empower our vulnerable citizens to transform their circumstances and create a new chapter for themselves,” Mayor McKinley Price said in his State of the City address Tuesday at the Newport News Marriott.
The Volunteers of America Chesapeake is running the shelter, which is expected to open Dec. 1.
“We’re absolutely excited about it,” said Dusky Holman, senior vice president and general counsel for VOA Chesapeake.”The whole goal is getting them housed and showing them that there is another way out of homelessness.”
Holman said the VOA Chesapeake currently runs four homeless shelters in Virginia and Maryland and previously helped operate the Lighthouse Center, a homeless day center for adults on 18th Street in Virginia Beach which closed in August after Virginia Beach opened its first Housing Resource Center.
Holman said the new homeless day services center in Newport News, located off Warwick Boulevard will have local staff and several nonprofit and government organizations on-site to provide different services.
One local organization on-site is LINK of Hampton Roads, a volunteer nonprofit based in Newport News to “help people help themselves” through education and other programs.
Last year LINK’s winter shelter program, PORT, served 516 men, women and children with 9,593 “bed nights” over the course of 20 weeks, said Lynne Finding, executive director for LINK.
Finding said the new center will be incredibly advantageous during the winter months.
“It gives them somewhere to go,” she said.
At this time, LINK has not decided what programs they will offer at the center.
“HELP has an easier time accommodating families because we’re slightly smaller than PORT. PORT has security so they’re better equipped to deal with people with behavioral challenges,” Stearn wrote in a text message.
Stearn said he received 1,000 referrals for 15 beds available year-round and while the city programs are indispensable and the day center is a great first step, none of the other programs will matter unless basic needs are met.
“People are concerned about where they are going to sleep tonight,” he said. “We really need to have shelters or places available to help transition from homeless to housing.”