Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Sunday, June 22, 2003

The Last Word Sat. 21,03

"Eastern State Hospital is in negotiations to give a building to a nonprofit group for a homeless shelter. It will require substantial amount of money to repair the building to meet safe occupancy standards. Does ESH have any standrds when it comes to letting groups have buildings rent free? Does it check if organizations have the funds to renovate and maintain the building? The group in question recently received non-profit status, has no experience and little money. Shouldn't non-profits have a proven track record and financial stability before being considered? There are many more deserving charities in town that pay rent to others that would welcome the opportunity for a rent-free building."

Our Response:

To the person who wrote into the Last Word on Saturday questioning our experience, ESH criteria, and our funds.
1) Almost all non-profits start off with a zero balance in the beginning. That is why fundraisers and donations are an important and required part of their planning and activities. Knowing that we were going to be sponsored by a fiscal parent, we could have moved forward with requesting donations, but we wanted to wait until Church Builders had our tax number: many other non-profits don't wait and have to go back to complete paperwork for tax-deductible donations. Having your non-profit status is part of ESH's criteria before they will negotiate a lease.
2) You say there are "more deserving" charities in town that pay rent: they will be given the opportunity to accept the building, as they have been previously, before it can be offered to us. But, you obviously didn't listen at the last meeting, because, part of our plan is to offer space to one of the non-profit medical clinics, rent free! This wil not only cut their over-head, but will allow us to offer free medical treatment to our patrons. Part of our stated goal is to coordinate the assistance offered by all the organizations together for the betterment of the homeless and working poor who have nowhere to live. I am part of the Taskforce for the Homeless along with the local CSB's, United Way, Salvation Army, concerned citizens and local churches. This is an effort we are all working together on.
3) We never said that it would be inexpensive to bring the building up to Life and Safety Codes: but even still, the cost is less than buying or building a facility of this size elsewhere. Many other churches and organizations in town have offered contracting services to aid in this endeavor. People with whom we currently work with have volunteered to help with the upgrades, as have many volunteers from other states. Why do we believe we can achieve this upgrade? Because others have shown the way:
James City Community Church was transformed from 'the sticky theater' into the Church it is now, all by donated work and money.
Avalon raised over 1 million dollars for their capital campaign through donations.
So, why would we think we would not be able to do the same?
4) You ask about our experience or lack thereof, as you claim? Each member of our Board of Directors has a great amount of experience in the areas they will handle in the ministry:
Linda Wall has many years of experience in government policies and in the past has been homeless herself.
Susan Cooke, who is the manager at Kitchens Collections, has experience working with people who are in need and has honed her managment skills for years.
Elizabeth Goff has dedicated many hours to shelters in Richmond and currently works in the ER at a Richmond hospital.
Hadyn Rickett, who is a rising sophmore at W&M, has volunteered at shelters in Alexandria and DC for many years and was a dedicated member on W&M's SHARPE and Hunger program.
Anne Moore, although she is not on the Board, will play an intricate role in our mentoring program. She is retired from the Stephen Ministeries, but has over 8 years experience in ministering to people who need spiritual help.
Geoff McKenzie, my husband, was raised in the enviroment of his parents' working in and helping to establish rescue missions in NY and SC, not ot mention growing up in the home of a minister and graduating from a reknowned Bible College.
Williamsburg United Methodist and York River Baptist Churches, whose Outreach Ministries hold a seat on our Board, have many years of practical experience in reaching out to those who need help. And,
Wanda Brown and Andre Williams have the experience of being homeless in Williamsburg and overcoming their challenges to enabling themselves to get off the streets. They now dedicate their lives to helping others.
Personally, I have been working with the homeless since I was a child (4 years old, actually).
But, what is most important is that we all have the compassion, heart, and desire to see the homeless "better themselves," and we all have a dedicated relationship with God.
ESH, who has brought a shelter closer to a reality than a vision, has served the community for over 230 years. Their concern for bettering patrons, including the homeless, is well documented. Mr. Favret, not only cares about the patrons at the facility, but also the homeless within our area. He knows the obstacles patrons face and ESH continuosly reaches out for their betterment within our society. Study the history of ESH and you will find a homeless shelter on their property makes the most sense and is a deserving site.
During colonial times in Williamsburg, the vagabonds, vagrants and idle persons made up a part of this society that were helped by the local residents. Thomas Jefferson, during his time in Williamsburg and Bruton Parish felt and proclaimed it was the responsibility of all people to reach out to the poor and needy under God's Word. As a matter of fact, Bruton Parish was the first known 'homeless shelter' in Williamsburg in the mid 1700's. As Christians, we need to follow their model to help anyone in need. During colonial times, not all homeless were drunks or addicts as the same goes for today. Their situations vary, but they lack a home to call their own and many lack hope.

Some are still unaware of the homeless in our city and some don't realize the rising problem, with the few 'weekly motels' that the working homeless live in, that will be closing within the year, will bring to Williamsburg, left with nowhere to go and few choices of affordable housing available to them.

Besides, at one time or another, all people started off with "no experience." But, despite this, they still have brought their talents together to help others. Being a non- profit isn't about having the most power, money, or experience, but, rather, centers around having a common goal and the desire to make a difference for the common good of one particular group.

Patti McKenzie, Executive Director/Founder Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent, P.O. Box 366, Williamsburg, VA 23090


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