WILLIAMSBURG — While life might be returning to normal for some families since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, homeless and low-income individuals are taking longer to recover.
At the start of fall, House of Mercy received 96 calls for emergency shelter in thirty days.
“That is an unprecedented level for us,” Nicole Lancour, director of communications, said.
Now with the nights getting colder, there is a new level of need for emergency shelter. Lancour said that House of Mercy’s housing office currently has more than 70 people in case management.
“In the first quarter of our fiscal year, we have already provided 40 percent of the nights of shelter that we did all of last year,” she said. “This is a new level of need that we’re seeing. Our goal with emergency shelter is always moving toward housing and helping people find that stable and permanent solution.
The community can show their support in multiple ways over the next few months, as House of Mercy will also soon hold its holiday food and toy drives.
The week before Thanksgiving, the organization will distribute turkeys and Thanksgiving meal ingredients to families in need so that they can make a Thanksgiving meal from the comfort of their homes.
The House of Mercy Christmas Market, which began last year, allows parents and caregivers to hand-pick Christmas gifts for their children and teenagers.
“That is one of the most touching and moving times of the year for us,” Lancour said. “Parents were in tears last year just expressing how certain gifts were actually on their kids’ Christmas lists. They were so grateful to be able to really provide a celebration even though things might be really hard for them financially.”
Lancour also noted that House of Mercy is one of the few organizations that allows children up to 18-years-old to receive gifts from the Christmas toy drives, as long as they are still in school.
House of Mercy is taking material donations from its Amazon and Target wish lists for food and Christmas gifts. Those who want to make a donation but do not want to go out to the stores, can also shop from home and have the items shipped. Donations can also be made on the website.
“We’re always trying to provide that sense of dignity and hope for the future,” Lancour said. “To be able to provide holiday items so they can celebrate in their own home and create those lasting traditions, it’s really a great way for the community to demonstrate that they see their neighbors, they see their needs and are committed to helping them.”
However, even during its holiday programs, Williamsburg House of Mercy does not stop offering its other services.
The organization is also accepting financial donations for emergency shelter and housing now.
“We really are grateful to the community for providing all this support, because the need is still there,” Lancour said.
For more information on how to donate to Williamsburg House of Mercy, visit its website.