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."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Of late, I've been reading 19th and early 20th century poetry regarding our nation and its leaders. These writings extol the grand and noble ideals on which this nation was founded. Praise is heaped upon the great leaders and patriots of old. But, where are the leaders for the present? Where are the men of today about whom poets of tomorrow will write songs of praise? I ask you, "When did we stop being Americans?"

Common men rose to uncommon heights while pursuing the founding ideals of our country. What made these men "Americans" was their will to rise above every-day pettiness in order to seek the betterment of their fellow man. Men of great wealth forsook earthly pleasures for themselves to pursue freedom for all. Men of common means gave the one thing they had, their lives, while rallying to the clarion call of Lady Liberty; knowing full-well that, in following her, they would most likely die and never drink the sweet libation of Freedom. Yet, they pressed on, if but to let her gain purchase on this great continent so that their posterity might feast at the banquet table she spread before them.

So, we prospered as a nation for a century. Freedom swept across the land (for most). But there remained a profound blight in the complexion of Liberty: slavery. Great men and patriots rose up, brother against brother, to right this wrong. (Yes, there are debates regarding the true purposes of "the war between the states," but the fact remains that slavery was abolished.) Again, great leaders came to the fore. Again, men rose to new heights, sacrifices were made, and blood was shed; all for the cause of Freedom.

We, however, fell short of the goal of true freedom for the slave. We unchained him from the whipping post, but we didn't set him truly free. We labeled him as a lesser race and kept him "in his place." But again, great Americans rose up and led the march to freedom and equality. What American hasn't heard Lady Liberty crying out, "I have a dream!" through Martin Luther King, Jr.? Songs have been written and multitudinous books concerning this era when America was rocked by protest and the cry of freedom was heard throughout the land.

But in the last forty years, few have been the leaders who have championed the cause of American Freedom. Rather than a living hope, freedom has become a bit of nostalgia. The older generations get a bit misty-eyed when they remember the wars they fought to preserve our great country, perhaps. But the younger generations seem to have forgotten what freedom truly means. We seem to think that free enterprise, self-expression, and gratuitous sex are the "be-all and end-all" of freedom.

We have people who call themselves leaders, but where are they going? Whom do they lead? The "American Spirit" is that of Liberty. Yet, do our leaders not lead us further into bondage? Are we not becoming more and more addicted to government hand-outs? Are we not forfeiting our freedoms in order to feel more "socially secure?"

The great leaders of America-past were not people who took responsibility for themselves: They were people who took responsibility for others and for future generations! They were people who sacrificed the present profit with an eye to the future gain. They were men who stared the threat of death in the eye and rallied to the cry, "Give me liberty or give me death!"

In the latest century, who are the men who led the way in business? Are they not Ford (who paid his workers a living wage and kept his cars affordable) and Getty (who opened his financial books to the unions to prove he couldn't afford the raise they requested, but gave it to them when he could) and Gates (who gained the greatest share of the computer market by making computers available to the common man)? Politically, was it not Reagan who stared down the Russian Bear and made us proud once again to be Americans? These men upped the ante for their generations and led the way to new prosperity and freedoms throughout the world.

But today I ask you, "When did we stop being Americans?" We wrap ourselves in finery and drive ourselves in luxury. We ensconce ourselves in our gated communities. But do we care about those who are not as fortunate as we are? Do we sacrifice ourselves for the next, let alone the present, generation?

We are surrounded by people who suffer poverty, hunger, lack of viable education or work skills, and homelessness. But when we see this new "leprosy" in our society, do we cry out, "Unclean!" and cast stones to drive them away? Do we wrap our self-righteous robes around us a little tighter lest we should be "defiled by this filth" as we pass by? Are we iron-fisted in our attitudes as we say, "Well, it's their own fault!", even as we deny them the hand-up we are so able, but unwilling, to give?

Where are the great Americans of today? Who will follow the example of Americans past and sacrifice themselves and their present comfort for this and future generations? Who will step out of the anonymous masses and stand tall in the face of criticism to lead the way? Will it be you? Or will historians of the future look back and ask, even as I do now, "When did we stop being Americans?"

Geoff McKenzie

Beach doesn’t want its rich hotel guests sent packing

The Virginian-Pilot
© October 28, 2003

Exquisite timing, wouldn’t you say?

A story in Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot revealed that just as innkeepers are placing mints on the pillows of media guests — in town for the six-week sniper trial — Virginia Beach officials are considering a ban on hotel stays that last longer than 30 days.

Of course city honchos don’t want to send those guests packing. They’re welcome to stay until their expense accounts run dry.

The city would like to dislodge poor people, however. Those unfortunates who hole up in cheap hotels for the winter and don’t leave until rates — and temperatures — rise in the spring.

Hmmmm. The timing of this news not only points out the obvious unintended consequences of such a boneheaded city ordinance, but it also presents a legal conundrum. How could the Beach craft a law that would evict low-income lodgers after 30 days but allow people with Platinum Visa cards to stay longer?

This will have ’em working overtime in the city attorney’s office.

If the plan gets that far, that is. City officials who were interviewed for Sunday’s story were quick to say that this is not a formal proposal right now.

It’s simply a bad idea.

Heck, why not simply adopt a city ordinance making it illegal to be poor in Virginia Beach?

With all the euphemistic talk lately about “blighted” Beach borough neighborhoods and the pressing need for the City Council to have a Redevelopment and Housing Authority to spruce up the area around the new convention center, one thing is becoming painfully apparent: The shabby set is an impediment to the revitalization of the resort area.

I phoned Dick Powell, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, first thing Monday for his take on this 30-day limit.

Mr. Powell gave a wry chuckle.

“Living in hotels is very expensive,” Mr. Powell conceded. “But all I can say is it’s better than living on the streets. “There’s simply no place for some of these people to go.”

Powell’s shelter, which feeds hundreds but houses only 50, hung out the no vacancy sign long ago. The waiting list for overnight accommodations now stands at 80 and will grow as the temperatures drop.

Where do those on the waiting list wait? Some bunk with relatives. Others sleep in their cars. Still others camp in the woods.

The lucky ones — those with a little cash — go to hotels.

Mr. Powell said that before the city outlaws extended hotel stays, it should consider helping the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center move to a larger location, where it could house more folks.

“How can the city even think about building a theater that’s going to cost about $60 million to serve a very small percentage of the people, when they won’t spend a couple of million to help house the homeless?” he asked.

How, indeed.

The city wants the JCOC to abandon its location on 17th Street. Seems the shelter and soup kitchen is uncomfortably close to the revitalization area. That’s fine with Powell and company; they outgrew their landlocked location years ago.

But the land they covet is pricey. Moving the shelter to a 2.87 acre parcel of land that is on the market and away from the convention center corridor will cost somewhere between $800,000 and $900,000.

That’s a lot of dough for a shelter to raise. But for a city with $202 million to lavish on a convention center, it’s mere municipal pocket change.

Truth is, there is a problem with low-income housing at the Beach. There isn’t enough of it. Once the tourists leave town and the skies turn the color of aluminum foil, Oceanfront hotels become temporary homes for the working poor.

It’s far from ideal, especially for the schoolkids living in such cramped quarters. City officials ought to explore ways to help these folks find a better digs.

But booting them out of hotels after 30 days won’t solve anything. It will simply create ragged bands of nomads every month. The timing of this news really isn’t exquisite at all. With winter coming and the hotels filling with indigent families, it’s just plain cold.

Monday, October 27, 2003

A special thanks from the McKenzie's to all the students of W&M's Hunger Awareness, SHARPE (Homeless Taskforce) and Baptist Bible Study for their efforts in preparing for the Nov. 1st Hawaiian Luau and "Homeless Night In A Box" sponsored by Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent in an effort to create awareness of the local homeless issues and bring together those who are concerned for the homeless.
Pictured: (center) Hadyn Rickett (head of W&M's Hunger Awareness and board member of Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent),with room mates Diana Sherban (L) and Jessica Miller (R)
Limits suggested on Va. Beach hotel, motel stays
By SUSAN E. WHITE, The Virginian-Pilot
© October 26, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Before Hurricane Isabel hit, Karen Saum's family sought shelter in an Oceanfront hotel.

When the storm destroyed their three-bedroom trailer in Colony Mobile Home Park, hotel life became more permanent.

``I have no clue where we'd go otherwise,''said Saum, who shares a two-room efficiency suite with her daughter and husband. ``This hotel is saving me totally.''

Saum's family is like countless others who turn to the Beach's hotels and motels during emergencies.

But in some cases, they never leave. Over the years, some of the city's hotels have evolved into long-term housing for low-income residents, and, currently, there's no written plan preventing people from using hotels as housing.

But that could change if city leaders adopt a code banning hotels and motels from renting rooms to the same occupant for more than 30 days.

City officials caution that the ban is one issue among several involving the resort area that they are discussing and that it may not even reach the City Council.

``We know that this is an issue that really impacts some people in a very difficult way,'' said Steven T. Thompson, the city's chief financial officer.

And alternatives are in short supply, especially for struggling low-income families, said the Rev. Randall L. Orwig, pastor of Tidewater United Church of Christ and a member of the Virginia Beach Interfaith Advisory Board.

``It's a conundrum because we know they shouldn't be there and they don't want to be there, but quite frankly, we have a lot of people who have no other place to turn,'' Orwig said.

Some also worry that a 30-day code would force families to bounce from one hotel to another. Such moves could interfere with the permanency that children often long for, said Gay M. Thomas, coordinator of the Beach's school social work services and supervisor of the division's homeless-education project.

``The challenge we have now is to keep the child in the same school,'' Thomas said. ``Every time they move, it's another transition, another adjustment.''

Thomas and city leaders say it's difficult to track how many people live in hotels because they are so transient. Beach schools estimated that 75 students were living in hotels in the spring of 2002.

The hotel residency issue comes as the city prepares for some redevelopment of the Oceanfront. The city is spending $202.5 million on a new convention center, which city leaders hope will spur other development to attract tourists.

One goal of the resort area has been to ensure that visitors have the best experience possible, said Andrew M. Friedman, director of the Beach Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation. ``A key part of that is the cleanliness and maintenance of all hotels, period,'' he said.

Over time, city officials have become concerned that some hotels, particularly around the Oceanfront, are being used in a way in which they never were intended, Thompson said.

``In an apartment complex, there's a minimum amount of square footage that is required. It's the same for plumbing, cooking facilities and recreation,'' he said. ``A hotel doesn't come under the same guidelines. So using them for long-term stays may pose a problem.''

In some cases, hotels that attract long-term residents also have become a nuisance to surrounding businesses and homeowners. That was the case with the Virginian Motel Apartments on 24th Street, where some neighbors said they often had problems with trespassing and litter.

``We had children in everybody else's yards, climbing over fences and tearing things down,'' said Barbara Yates, manager of Angie's Guest Cottage on 24th Street. ``Motels are just not conducive to rearing families.''

Yates, along with some other hotel managers and homeowners, has been pressing the city on the hotel residency issue. Although the businesses receive annual inspections, some have become dilapidated, Yates said.

The Health Department shut down the Virginian this summer after finding numerous violations, including insect and rodent infestations, stained mattresses, and dirty walls and ceilings.

Such problems fueled discussions about whether the Beach needed to conduct more comprehensive hotel inspections, as well as questions about how to create more affordable housing.

Several years ago, a team of inspectors from the Health Department, fire marshal's office and housing department worked together to examine a portion of the Beach's hotels and motels. Although each of those agencies is separately responsible for annual inspections, Friedman said the combined effort was a way to further ensure that the businesses were being properly maintained.

Now, city officials want that team to inspect all hotels and motels each year for the next two years to look for significant problems, Friedman said. Those team inspections should determine if more frequent ones are needed, he added.

Friedman's department also has been working with social services, churches and private nonprofit groups to develop a plan to assist hotel transients.

Among other things, Friedman said, they'd like to expand the city's housing programs, including Section 8, which provides rental subsidies to low-income residents. Also needed is an outreach program where social workers would visit families living in hotels to make sure they know that public assistance is available.

The city also is interested in the development of a single-room occupancy housing complex for homeless men and women. Such a complex has been discussed as a regional project.

Doris Brown, property manager of the Seashire Inn on Laskin Road, said she would love to see such opportunities happen. During the winter, the motel often houses up to 35 families, many of whom move in because they can't pass a credit check to get an apartment.

``I've got people who've been here three or four years,'' Brown said. ``They're struggling, but this is also an expensive way to live.''

Although utilities are covered, weekly rates at some hotels can run higher than monthly rental prices. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Virginia Beach is $742. One Oceanfront hotel advertised weekly rates of $249, or nearly $1,000 a month.

Some business owners caution, however, that the homeless aren't the only ones who often stay in hotels long-term. Some are booked with government and business contractors in town on jobs.

``Monthly rentals are a lucrative and important business for us,'' said John E. Uhrin, director of operations for Burlage Mangement, which has five hotels in Virginia Beach.

Friedman said details on how a ban would be enforced or what exemptions might be possible haven't been worked through.

The bigger issue, he said, is making other housing available so that hotels don't become homes.

``Hotels provide a resource for people in emergencies, and that will continue,'' Friedman said. ``But for those families that end up staying longer, we just think there should be better options.''

Sunday, October 26, 2003


To Whom It May Concern,

God is known for His amazing ability to focus and concentrate on the business at hand of this world. In Williamsburg, it is obvious He has been unable to keep still with all the opposition against the McKenzie's. It shows some who say they are Christian, do not practice their faith by works, unlike Patti and Geoff.
Yes, I am mad! When God sent an angel to Williamsburg to do His work that has existed and ignored for over 30 years, out of nowhere, Satan appears. Satan comes through the opposition to a couple who offer help, when we have been turned down elsewhere. But we all know God's power is wonderful and Satan doesn't have a chance to win.
Yes, I am one of the homeless in Williamsburg and wish we could all pull together in helping the McKenzie's to fight for what is right by God.

Thanks for listening,

L. Washington

A few weeks ago, I set up a generic email account for the homeless, so whether they are at the library or our house, they have a way to electronicallly communicate with others. Because of some homeless knowing about the problems with the county, they decided to write into the paper and officials. Last night I received a copy of a letter from a person who is currently homeless and the response from Sen. Norment to her letter. She informed me that she sent this to the Sen. Candidates and Del Candidates along with the York County Supervisors and papers. So far, she has only heard back from Sen. Norment, but he is known for responding to all calls and emails and fast.

Dear Officials and Candidates:

My name is Lisa. I am a homeless person in Upper York County of Williamsburg and I EXIST. I am not hopeless, just down on my luck. I am disabled, in need of help and without a home. Everywhere I turn I meet road blocks (i.e. bad credit, no family, few true friends, no transportation, no ID and medical needs), that all hinder my progress in establishing a stabile home.

This does not mean I am unable to use a computer, or that I hang out on the streets and drink, have no concern for my appearance, try to bring pain to others or don't want to be a productive member of the community. It does mean that I have no place to shower, or extra money for neccessary phone calls, a place to cook or store food (especially due to my medical nutrition needs), a place to keep my clothes and many other obstacles.

If Patti McKenzie is willing to lend a helping hand to people such as myself, please encourage her! Why fight against her if she is willing to help the people many in the community refuse to ackowledge, complain about or remain distant due to fear?

Thank You,
Lisa B.
place of residence...the streets of York County in Williamsburg

please do not discard this because I do not have a home or phone number, I did take the time to get to a computer and type it

Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 08:18:01 -0400
From: "Norment, Thomas K., Jr."
To: "Williamsburg Homeless"

I do not think your entire email came through because it ended in mid-sentence and did not show your name. Your message was eloquently stated, and I sure will move the conscience of those you sent this email to. I have thought Patti's ideas for the homeless are worthy of serious consideration. I even went to one of her board meetings to learn more. It has just turned out that the Eastern State Hospital plan is not workable. I hope she will continue her efforts, and God bless you. Tommy


Remember when you were younger and your parents would tell you "I don't like who you choose for your friends" or "We don't think they are the kind of friends you should have"? We have all gone through this at one time or another with our parents. Then we either rebel to show our parents that we have the right to pick our friends or some shun the friend (that has been marked less than desirable by the parents.) Well, that is part of the struggle I am going through at the moment. Not against my parents (because they are deceased), nor Geoff's (because his are accepting and loving of people), nor by my husband (especially since he knows what it is like to have been homeless), nor my W&M friends (because they have the heart for the homeless), nor the homeless themselves. But it is a fight against the county officials who are trying to tell me who I can have at our house in the daytime.

So let's backup to earlier this week...to Tuesday when Mr. Seaborn came for his appointment. As I have said earlier in a previous blog, I wanted to ease the county's mind that we planned to work within the regulations for building permits. When he showed up along with another inspector, he informed me that they had decided to not allow any services to be provided, even in the daytime. The homeless were not allowed to come over and use our computer to search for jobs or do resumes; could not use the extra washer and dryers we have to save money to do their laundry; they could not store any groceries in our spare refrigerators or cook on the stoves; they couldn't come and shower or bathe. So I inquired about us becoming a business and charging for the services to the homeless. He stated with us being in Economic Opportunity district, the revenue generated from our services would not meet the standards for the district.

But again I heard the dreaded phrase, "we commend what you are trying to do, but officially you can't do it here either." He then proceeded to inform me that we couldn't have Bible Study at our home either "to have Bible Study at your house 3 times a week is defining you as a church and a church would not be welcomed in Economic Opportunity district either." I questioned this statement and asked "where is this written as a law? So everyone in Williamsburg who has Bible Studies in their home is breaking the law?" Mr. Seaborn said that the Comprehensive Plan and County Codes do not allow it. We can not have Bible Study here for the homeless at all.

So I asked, "I tend to have W&M students over often to eat dinner or play Frisbee. Is this ok?" Besides I pointed out to him, "what else do you do with almost 3 areas of land, where almost 2 of it are fenced in the backyard?" "What about my friends from church or other friends in the community?" He said "that is fine." Ah I am starting to see a pattern here. Everyday people are ok to come over in the daytime, but if you are homeless, you are not welcomed at our home...according to the statements of who can come over. But, here is the problem. I have always had a variety of friends. Some were from upper elite families (Senator and Governor's kids, newspaper company owner's kids, CEO's kids); some were from 'the other side of the track' or 'lower income families' (my high school sweetheart was from a low-mid middle class family in the valley of the WV mountains); some were friends who were years older than me (my close friend in SC is 70ish and Geoff's best friend in SC is late 60's) and some of my friends are younger (such as Hadyn.) When I was a teen, I had friends that were white, black, Hispanic, Philippine, Asian, and Indian. In SC, I had friends who were homeless and friends who weren't.

Here is Williamsburg, one of my closest friends, Ann is many years older than I am, yet we have a lot in common. My other friend, Susan is Italian. Hadyn is a sophomore at W&M. And one of my best friends use to be homeless until August and she is black. Actually, several of our friends are currently or previously homeless. I don’t make this statement as to say in a generic way that we have friends who are homeless, as to cover up for them. I truly mean they are our friends. Even though we work with several people who are homeless, we are not close friends with all of them. But we do consider them our friends. So with all this in mind, why should it matter if my friends have homes or not. They are still my friends. Why is it ok for Hadyn or Ann or Susan to come over each day to watch a movie, have lunch or dinner, do laundry or use my computer? Because they have a place to sleep at night?

Now even though I wasn’t always thrilled when my parents told me who I could be friends with, they could control who was allowed over to our house, because it was their home and I only lived there. But, considering they are deceased, I am grown and it is our home (or at least we pay the rent,) nobody should have the right to say what social status somebody has to be in order to come over in the daytime. Now some may argue the fact we rent instead of own. Malarkey! Even when you rent, you have the right to the private enjoyment of the place you live in. There is nothing, nor can there be, in a lease that states “any visitors must make a set income to visit” or “Visitors must have a home in order to come see you.” As long as my friends do not infringe upon neighbors’ rights or cause any problems to them or their property, it is no one else’s business. And so far, I have not seen anything in the county code about set standards of friends at a person home.

Now more importantly...the right to religious freedom. The statement made by the inspector “to have Bible Study at your home 3 times a week constitutes you as a church” has become an upsetting claim to many of the Pastors in Williamsburg. Here again, I have searched the county codes and can not find anything in regards to his claim. First of all, the Bible says to go forth and share the Gospel with others. It is a responsibility of all Christians. Secondly, God wants us to reach out to the lost, poor and needy (research Commander Booth of Salvation Army when he established the first SA.) We have helped others who were lost in their relationship with God. One gentleman who use to be Muslim recently dedicated his life to God through Christianity, by his choice. Another who had such anger toward God for his situation chose to rededicate his life to God and realized it was his actions that brought him to where he was, but that he needed to experience his pain to go out and help others. We don’t force or require people to come to the Lord, we just help them if they desire so.

I recently called the Legislative Office in Richmond about this so-called code. They knew of none and pointed me to the State Code regarding religious freedom:
Religious freedom preserved; definitions; applicability; construction; remedies.
A. Except as provided in subsection B, no government entity shall substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
B. A government entity may substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (i) furthers a compelling governmental interest and (ii) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. Before the compelling governmental interest test required by this subsection is applied, a person asserting a violation of this section shall first prove that the law, ordinance or regulation as applied to him burdens the free exercise of his religion.
C. As used in this section:
"Demonstrates" means meets the burden of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion under the standard of a preponderance of the evidence.
"Exercise of religion" means the exercise of religion under Article I, Section 16 of the Constitution of Virginia, the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom (§ 57-1 et seq.), and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"Fraudulent claim" means a claim that is dishonest in fact or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as to harass the opposing party.
"Frivolous claim" means a claim that completely lacks merit under existing law and cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.
"Government entity" means any branch, department, agency, instrumentality of state government, or any official or other person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision of the state.
"Prevails" means to obtain "prevailing party" status as defined by courts construing the federal Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
"Substantially burden" means to meaningfully inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.
D. Nothing in this section shall be construed to (i) authorize any government entity to burden any religious belief or (ii) affect, interpret or in any way address those portions of Article I, Section 16 of the Constitution of Virginia, the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom (§ 57-1 et seq.), and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion. Granting government funds, benefits or exemptions, to the extent permissible under clause (ii) of this subsection shall not constitute a violation of this section. As used in this subsection, "granting" used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, shall not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.
E. A person whose religious exercise has been burdened by government in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may obtain such declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and/or monetary damages as may properly be awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction. A person who prevails in any proceeding to enforce this section against a government entity may recover his reasonable costs and attorney's fees. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rule of standing under Article VI of the Constitution of Virginia. The provisions of this subsection relating to attorney's fees shall not apply to criminal prosecutions.
F. Any person found by a court with jurisdiction over the action to have abused the protections of this section by filing a frivolous or fraudulent claim may be assessed the government entity's court costs, if any, and may be enjoined from filing further claims under this section without leave of court.
G. No provision of this section shall be construed to afford any rights to any person incarcerated or detained in a state, regional, local or federal correctional, detention or penal facility, whether or not such facility is (i) located in the Commonwealth or (ii) operated pursuant to the Corrections Private Management Act. However, this subsection shall not be construed to prevent an incarcerated person from exercising any other constitutional or statutory right relating to the free exercise of religion.
H. A person who alleges that the free exercise of his religion has been substantially burdened in violation of this section shall notify, in writing, the chief executive officer of the government entity of the alleged violation, stating the factual basis for the claim and the relief requested. Within sixty days of receipt of such claim, the government entity shall investigate the alleged violation and respond to such person in writing. Thereafter, such person may assert the alleged violation as a claim in any equitable proceeding and the court may grant appropriate relief, including attorney's fees.

Constitution of Virginia
Bill of Rights

Section 16. Free exercise of religion; no establishment of religion.

That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. And the General Assembly shall not prescribe any religious test whatever, or confer any peculiar privileges or advantages on any sect or denomination, or pass any law requiring or authorizing any religious society, or the people of any district within this Commonwealth, to levy on themselves or others, any tax for the erection or repair of any house of public worship, or for the support of any church or ministry; but it shall be left free to every person to select his religious instructor, and to make for his support such private contract as he shall please.

What can we do in regards to the property, our home we rent? He did say it was ok to use the building for donation storage and drop off. We can continue to have our Hawaiian Luau on Nov. 1st as an awareness function. We can still have our homeless Night in A Box on Nov. 1st (this is open to all who would like to participate.) We can have people over for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Adopt-a-Homeless Person for Christmas.)

So, here again I state who has the right to choose our friends and who has the right to go against our religious freedom? What do you think? Email at helpthehomeless@cox.net

Friday, October 24, 2003

Unfortunately, this writer for the Dog Street Journal proved what many of the residents were saying about their concerns of parties if the new apartment complex was built where Southern Inn current sits. Yes, we all know that some of the current residents (and some in the past) hang outside and drink after work; we know the building is run down and that the owners don't have much concern for it in it's condition. But, at one point in time it was new and nice just as the apartment complex would have been. Even the Tioga has become less than desirable in apperance. But more importantly, they provide a place to live at an affordable cost of living. Maybe the 'cheesy' plastic chairs aren't the quality the writer's parents would have provided him, but there are many in Williamsburg who provide the best they can.
But, I would like to point out that not all the students go out and party or even care how close the liquor store is to where they live. Sadly enough, many students get bad reputations because of others' actions; just as the homeless are stereotyped as a whole because of the actions of others.

Time for a Change on Richmond Road
by Mike Clark, DSJ Staff Reporter

At last! Someone finally had the sense to suggest that the city of Williamsburg tear down those ugly buildings on Richmond Road, between the Wachovia and Big Apple Bagel. Whoever it was should be given a medal. If there is any part of Williamsburg, any part of it near the College at least, that needs to be renovated, it is that space between Big Apple Bagel and Brooks St. I remember thinking three years ago how strange it was to have a palm-reader on the street so close to the historic district. Anyone who has walked, or even driven past that area, knows that it is a complete eyesore. Old is not an appropriate description for the structures located along that road. Dilapidated would be far more appropriate.

The area does not fit with its surroundings. Allow me to take you on an imaginary tour down Richmond Rd., starting at DoG Street. First, we pass the President’s house, home to presidents of the College since 1693. Then, there is Monroe Hall, Blow Hall and the Bryan Complex. After the traffic light, we see Zable stadium, the Alumni House and St Bede’s Church. After that, classy houses that are home to bed and breakfast establishments line the road.

After Brooks Street, however, things get ugly, first with that abandoned gas station on the corner. When I used to walk past that at night, I was afraid that a clan of crazed mechanics would rush out and pummel me with lug wrenches. That thing has been there long enough: it needs to go.

The Days’ Inn that comes along next is fairly nice, but the Tioga Motel is a dump. My favorite features at that place are the cheap plastic chairs that adorn the porches of every room. Getting rid of those would make the place 25 percent better. Unfortunately, this would not be enouhg of an improvement. The pool in front is a landmark too. A nice apartment building would look nice there.

The Wachovia on the corner of Matoaka Ct. is fine, as is the dry-cleaner right next to it. The Southern Inn and the astrologer’s office, however, look terrible. The parking lot looks like it is made of gravel, and the offices of both organizations look tacky. It is time for a change.

A new apartment complex that could house several hundred students would be a good addition to the area. It would provide easy access to the Food Lion and, more importantly, the liquor store. It would be great for business at restaurants in the area, including Big Apple Bagel and Sal’s by Victor. It is within biking distance of campus and could be an attractive alternative to the Green Machine’s stop in the dark alley behind Staples. As to the traffic situation on Richmond Rd., it may get worse, but if the Green Machine were to reroute itself to the new apartment complex, the traffic problem might be reduced. If planned correctly, it might reduce the current clamor for day student parking spaces.

Granted, it would take time to get used to the new arrangement, but I think that it would be worth it. Although steeped in tradition, sometime the community needs to change. Now, I think, is the appropriate time for that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Keep in mind, our old landlord asks us to keep their name off the webpage....but first of all, if you send me an email, it is mine to use and public info!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So forget it Charlene....sue me as you said you would....these are the emails you sent to me and the county is willing to give me the one you sent them.....it is PUBLIC INFO!!!!!
Email I received today from our old landlords.....As I have said if you send me an email, I have the right to publicize it....

"Charlene " Tuesday, October 21, 2003 11:07 AM
Please remove our name and e-mail immediately from your website. I don't read e-mails from people I do not know, so they would be unread anyway.

Failure to do so could result in legal actions at your expense.

Charlene and Andy Talcott

The "facts" you said we did not have came directly from your newspaper article and your web site, along with my discussions with the zoning board.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Over 2 weeks ago I had contacted Walt Zeremba, our County's Supervisor, about the potential plans for a shelter. Unfortunately he was out of town. So we went ahead and invited people from local churches, Joyce from United Way, Captain Shannon from Salvation Army and Paul Aron over to look at the building and get their opinions. Although the main part of the building is a sound structure, you still have to use your imagination to see it’s potential. The following week, Walt Zeremba had called me back and we talked about the zoning and what plans could possibly pass. He informed me I needed to contact Mr. Carter at Planning Office for our county to also discuss the area's zoning. A few days later, especially after the story ran, I contacted Mr. Carter. He explained the zoning regulations and suggested for me to contact Mr. Seaburn of Building/Inspections. I talked with him last week to also assure him that we are wanting to keep this in the up and up. We need to know the process and about building permits, paperwork and so forth. We scheduled an appointment for him to come over Tuesday to look at the building and let us know what can and can't be done. Also, I informed him the building right now is inhabitable because of the hurricane, we lost several shingles and a part of the side was torn down on the outside of the building. Which we are waiting for the insurance adjuster to see it before the landlord has my husband do the repairs.

But, you see most of the building is actually in good condition, since Mr. Woods used it for an appliance repair and retail shop. It reminds me of the house we recently moved out of. It is a concrete block 1200 square foot building. The only difference is that we don't have any bathrooms attached to the plumbing. It came complete with plumbing inside in several areas, and many electrical outlets. Why is this a strange fact to point out, you wonder?

Because this afternoon while taking a break from sweeping out the dirt from inside the building, a gentleman pulled up from York County. Now I had assumed it was Mr. Seaburn a day early, which still would have been fine. I even said "Aren't you a day early? I thought we were meeting in the morn." He introduced himself and said "you are meeting with Mr. Seaburn?" I explained what our future plans are and that Mr. Seaburn is to come tomorrow and go over permits. So he proceeded to tell me he was responding to an email sent a few days ago. He asked me about the electrical, which as I said before the building came with an outlet every 2 feet throughout and many different appliance outlets. I assured him that other than the painting, everything else would be done with a building permit that our new landlords are signing for us. "Your landlords know about your plans?" He asked. "Yes, as a matter of fact, they are in HUD housing developing and also business ventures. When we rented the place, we told them everything about what we do and also about Robert living with us. Do whatever you want and if papers or permits need to be signed, we will sign em." (I explained about Robert and his heart condition and how the landlords approved him renting with us.) So as I explained to him, our landlords have no problem, especially since in 2-3 years they are planning on tearing down all their property in this area and building either apartment complex (which I even told them zoning would have to be changed) or doctors offices. Which we knew this when we rented.

After speaking with the gentleman, he said "Let me get the email and show you. I feel if somebody is going to file a complaint, then the person the complaint is on should know what we received." He handed me a piece of paper and wow was I floored. It was from our old landlords on 10121 Sycamore Landing Rd. They or she specifically stated that we were doing work on the building without permits and that we were doing plumbing and electrical work as well. Even the inspector saw that all we had done was paint the outside of the building. We hadn't done any work other than that to the building.

But, I want to make this clear. We will have permits, we will have business licenses and we do have our new landlords' permission. But to think our old landlords are still involved in this and even more so the fact they are speaking out without knowing the facts and just assuming and turning us into the Building and Zoning Inspectors is shocking. Those of you who know or have access to the internet can go to http://www.regis.state.va.us/jcc/public/ieprop.htm and type in the address of 10121 Sycamore Landing Rd. It will give the mailing address of our old landlords. THIS IS PUBLIC INFO or the COUNTY wouldn't have it on their webpage.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Recent submissions to the papers about a homeless shelter in Williamsburg.

*I would like to know where those who were so busy writing about the zoning laws concerning the McKenzies, where you were during Isabel. Patti was running an elderly couple to the hospital. Their mobile home had been crushed by a tree and they needed medical attention. Patti made sure they got it. Geoff was picking up people and bringing them to their house so they had adequate shelter during the storm. Both were in the rain cooking on the grill and delivering food to people who needed it, even while the trees were falling all around them. Did you offer us safety instead of being on the street? As to dealing with the homeless, may we come to you who write so eruditely to get our resumes typed up or help us with job applications? Will you let us use your computer to check our emails or correspond with family we may have in the Iraq War? Will you sit down and do Bible Study with us? Will you take us to our doctor appointments? They are doing wonderful things for us and we appreciate it. All we need is a little help.

*From the tone of some recent Last Word contributors one would think that the McKenzies were attempting to open an Al Quaeda training camp in Lightfoot instead of a temporary, transitional shelter for those needing a helping hand to get back on their feet. Shrill sourpusses just show they are part of the problem and uninterested in a solution. Agencies who deal with the problem know the need is real. County Supervisors know special use permits are designed to make appropriate variances from comprehensive plans for needed entities. It’s time to do the right thing, show our community has a heart, and take care of our neighbors in need. Will Thomas Jefferson remain a symbol of Williamsburg, or will it be Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, or Mr. Pecksniff?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Crystal Evans

Still Homeless, but She Says She Sees the Light (Boston Globe article 10/12/03)

Still homeless, but she says she sees the light
A young woman fills days with non-stop energy; TV beckons
By Johnny Diaz, Globe Staff, 10/12/2003

It's hard to keep track of Crystal Evans these days.

She endures sessions of therapy for seizures and vertigo, the effects of a brain injury from a car accident.

On Tuesday nights, she hones penning her memoirs at the Harvard University Extension School.

Once a week, she volunteers at Children's Hospital; twice a week, she colors with children at the Ronald McDonald House in Brookline.

And when she's not doing any of the above, she tries to secure a roof over her head for the night and a free meal at local homeless programs.

Homeless and 22 years old, Evans may have another item to add to her to-do list: a guest appearance on an upcoming segment of ''The Sharon Osbourne show," a syndicated daytime talk show featuring the wife of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

A producer of the show recently reached out to Evans after she read about her homeless stories in a July 28 City Weekly profile.

The article focused on how the industrious woman chronicles life on city streets via her on-line journal, www.livejournal.com/users/being_homeless.

She details how she logs on to the Internet at Boston libraries or at a Cambridge homeless youth center, Youth On Fire, and how she also washes her clothes there once a week.

''At first I thought it was a joke," Evans said of the talk show request. ''I didn't know why they wanted a homeless person on the show."

Maybe it's the way she draws from a deep reservoir of strength to document the challenges a Boston-area homeless person faces. Evans shares those struggles with a loyal following of 400-plus cyber surfers.

Evans describes the discomfort of lugging belongings from one shelter to another, the lingering fear of being robbed or raped on the street, and the uncertainty of traveling a road that sometimes feels like it's heading nowhere.

A common theme in her entries: whether Evans will ever be well enough to hold down a job, and if she can live on her own.

Evans calls social workers on a cellphone and receives mail at a South Station-area post office box, amenities she pays for with her monthly state disability checks. She powers up her cellphone or laptop at outlets at Au Bon Pain and McDonald's in Cambridge.

Her resiliency keeps her moving, and has inspired fellow homeless friends and social workers at Boston-area shelters.

''A lot of people in her situation would have given up a long time ago, and she hasn't," says Olex Tatro, 24 and homeless. When Tatro arrived in Boston to stay at local shelters, he met Evans, who shared her knowledge on where to find a bed and where to eat.

It made life on the streets less lonely, Tatro said.

''She has just been there. Someone to talk to," he added. ''She definitely wants to change. She doesn't want to be where she is. She is working very hard to change it."

Evans's story: She ran away from her Concord, N.H, home three years ago and suffered a brain injury in a car accident. That left her with seizures, short-term memory loss, and sometimes, vertigo. The combination hampered her efforts in holding down nanny and cleaning jobs to pay for rent.

Broke and estranged from her family, she found her way to Boston, where the streets became her refuge.

In her recent journal entries, she describes how strict some shelters can be. How a homeless guest can be written up and possibly thrown out for not following up on chores such as mopping or taking out the trash. She notes how some other homeless women don't believe she is indeed homeless because of her clean and sometimes preppy appearance.

But for now, Evans seems more optimistic about the future.

She smiles a lot wider these days.

''I see my goal now," says Evans, sporting a blue Harvard sweatshirt on a recent weekday. She sits on a concrete bench at the Cambridge Common, a popular place among local homeless people. ''I need medical care and that is what is important. If I complete rehab, I have a better chance of a future and going back to work. It's a long process. They can't fix me, but they can help me cope with my issues."

A lot of it involves loss of short-term memory, which she says has hindered her in holding down basic jobs, such as cleaning or office work. During interviews with a reporter, she seems to lose track of what she just said at times.

''People tell me, 'You are like that fish, but I haven't seen the movie.,' " she said, referring to Dory, the forgetful blue fish in last summer's Disney movie, ''Finding Nemo." ''I don't remember repeating myself."

When her monthly state welfare checks began arriving in August, she was able to pay for physical and cognitive therapy at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Using her monthly MBTA disability pass, Evans rides the T to the center and spends one-hour sessions working on her balance and relaxation skills for migraines. She works with a speech therapist, and also learns to focus on rudimentary living skills such as staying organized with paperwork and maintaining a household.

The center specializes in brain-injured patients, one of the main draws for Evans in leaving her native New Hampshire for Boston, a city rife with homeless outreach centers.

Fueled by the story of another 22-year-old homeless woman, Liz Murray, whose experiences of living on the streets and studying at Harvard inspired a recent Lifetime Network TV movie, Evans headed to Harvard too.

This fall, she is taking a memoir writing class at the university's extension school, where she has been writing essays similar in theme to her journal entries.

And as for the future, she would like to stick with the extension school for a while, perhaps major in women's studies and take writing as an minor. She paid for her recent class with her social security checks, which she points out are not enough to pay for housing.

Evans hopes to work full-time again and pay for rent and enjoy the comforts of her own place.

''I feel like I am getting somewhere," she said. ''I never saw myself as homeless and going to Harvard."

Johnny Diaz may be reached at jodiaz@globe.com

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
I always enjoy reading Kevin's website. As a matter of fact, I am hoping he will come to Williamsburg for a visit. He truly is an inspiration for how far he has come in his life. Here is his blog today...along with my comment back.

Blogging Personally

Yeah, I don't much blog about personal issues any more. I have my reasons. I'm torn between two ideas.

My posts of a personal nature seem to attract personal attacks. I don't get attacked personally when I post generic information. Personal attacks get old after a while. Well, more than get old, they hurt. It's only natural to avoid things that hurt. The same thing has happened to the homeless girl blogger www.beinghomeless.com. The attacks make me avoid writing posts of a personal nature - even though I do get some great and positive feedback as well. Homeless people are injured people, which means they are not able to protect or defend themselves against attacks, as well as other people might.

Then there is the issue of this blogs popularity. Everyone I know - friends, family, acquaintances - all read this blog. If I wrote about one person, every else who knows that person would also read it. It could start one of those "Did you hear what Kevin wrote about so-and-so?" And that ain't good. Even my exwife reads this blog. You may have noticed that I don't write about her on this blog. She has proven herself willing and able to use anything she can against me, even things that are not true. She destroyed my relationship with our children, and she didn't stop there. I don't want to give her any more ammunition, or reason to use it. Even this little mention is risky. Those are some of the reasons why I don't want to write personal posts.

The reasons for writing personal posts are obvious. Knowing what really happens in the life of a homeless person is vital information for the public. Doing so changes the public's perception of homelessness. It's a slight yet important difference. When you refer to "the homeless" you only see the condition, when you refer to "homeless people" you see the person within the condition. As school has begun again, I am reminded of the impact of this blog as several teachers and professors (in subjects ranging from webpage design to sociology) include it in their curriculum. Of course some say that I am only encouraged to stay homeless because of the attention this blog creates for me. That isn't true. It does prompt me to continue writing this blog, but other issues are involved in my being homeless.

Facts of my life - I have never been able to survive this world on my own. The only time I've been able to live what is considered a normal or acceptable life has been with the help of others, either by living married where I had the support of my wife, or with friends with whom I shared a place, or in a halfway house, or living on a college campus, or in the military, or some institution like the rescue mission. I did have a place of my own for a little over a year, but I wasn't able to maintain it. What causes me to be this way is unknown. Of course some people have said that I am just lazy, or that I lack character, or that I make bad decisions. Of course they don't venture to suggest "why" I'm that way. Others do say that what appears to be laziness, poor character, and bad judgment are just signs of mental/emotional illness. I tend to believe the latter, though I've never been thoroughly examined. If I admit that I suffer from mental illness, my exwife would use that against me, if I ever attempted to see my children. She has in the past. And there's the issue of being declared mentally ill. It would affect the rest of my life. "Your Daddy is crazy and homeless" isn't something I'd like my kids to hear from someone other than me. I do a very good job at hiding my deficiencies. And, this does cause some people to think my homelessness is a joke, (cause they can't see my problems). Perhaps my problems could be overcome with proper help. But real help isn't available. I could try the denial thing - just try to go on with life as if I had no problem. Denial works for a while, but eventually - like the year I had my own place - reality comes back to haunt. Perhaps if I found me an understanding woman, who could tolerate my imperfections, she could give me the support I need to carry on a more normal life.

This has been a confession made under duress, stress, and the weakness that comes from a two day old headache. Will this open a whole new can of worms?

Why should you be kicked for your 'imperfections'? We ALL have them, homeless or not. Those who hold you 'character flaws' against you do only so to hide their own. It is easier in today's society to point the finger at somebody else instead of looking at ourselves. And even if you do have some aspect of mental illness (which we all do as well), it doesn't mean you are undeserving or unworthy of love or human kindness. Just remember, we all need love and even through a helping heart we are all deserving of love. Patti

Sunday, October 12, 2003


This morning I went to Wsburg United Methodist Church's Aldersgate ministry to give an update on our dreams for a shelter. Capt. Greg Shannon, from Salvation Army, was the guest speaker today. Those who don't live here or those who do, yet haven't met him, I would like to say he is an incredible person. I am not just saying as a SA Capt., but as a person. I don't know him personally very well, but I can say it is hard to get close to him, for his heart is larger than his boundaries and his spirit radiates God, goodness and care that you can't help but to be near his efforts! I have met several Capt.s from SA in my time, yet none have ever impressed me as much as Capt. Shannon.

He gave some background on the Salvation Army, but more importantly, about their motto: OTHERS. Isn't that what God asks us all to be about in our works? When we seek out others who need help, we are doing His work for Him. We are reaching out to those in need, just as Jesus reached out to us. Commander Booth took it upon his works to welcome the people who smelled, were dirty, unfed, unclothed, without a home and lack of spiritual teaching.

We as humans are not worthy of God's love and the cost for our sins, yet He loves us so greatly that he forgives us daily for all we do or not do. As humans, we call out for God's help and forgiveness. But, as humans, we forget to show OTHERS the same love, friendship and forgiveness that we expect from God. Many of us walk past the homeless without blinking an eye, let alone smile or speak to them. Many of us assume they are drunk again or just got out of jail. As a matter of fact, around here they are known as THOSE people. I have sat down with many, shared meals with several, studied the Bible numerous times with and sometimes received advice from a few of the females about my own problems. They are human just as you and I. They long for friendship, not charity. They enjoy time together as a person, not like some freak to be observed or 'caged behind the town's barriers'. They bleed the same as you, they hurt when ignored, they cry many times when shown love. What makes them different from the rest of the community? Just because they don't have a home? After Isabel, many in Williamsburg doesn't have a home. Why are they deserving of help and kindness and not the homeless on the streets and in the weekly motels?

Commander Booth took it as an honor to be called upon for his work and so do I. It should be my choice if I want to have the homeless as my friends and to help as much as I possibly can. I don't tell people in the community where they can work or what job they can have, so why should you be able to dictate my work? And just maybe if you would take the time out to sit down and get to know them as a person, you might find a friend as well.
Submitted by Hadyn from W&M

Dispelling the Myth of Homelessness in Williamsburg

The closing of four hotels in the area will catapult homelessness to alarming heights in Williamsburg. The ambivalence of the community can be attributed to, besides the various economic reasons, the myth that Williamsburg does not have a homeless problem and the dismissal of college students’ ability to incite change.The myth continues because many students are uninformed about area homelessness. The key players in the fight for a shelter, such as Patti McKenzie, choose the “Last Word” section of the Virginia Gazette as their preferred medium. At the same time, within the permanent community is the fear that open homelessness discussion will tarnish Colonial Williamsburg’s image.

Area service groups, until last year, did a great job raising money to put homeless people in hotels over the winter. But the call for student housing has proven more lucrative for owners who plan to turn the buildings into low-cost, privately-owned student apartments. Students too suffer from a myth created for us by the rest of Williamsburg. We are seen as transient members of the city, exploiting the resources, and not being aware citizens. We need to prove that William & Mary’s most important function is as a resource. Instigating change is the arena in which students excel because of our numbers, access to school property, and initiative.

Just last Saturday, various volunteer groups from William and Mary helped paint a building in York county which might become the area’s first emergency shelter. Events like the upcoming National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week are opportunities for students to generate press exposure and community solidarity. As a major force in Williamsburg, we can dispel the myth of the homeless by destroying our own myth at the same time.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

John (SHARPE Homeless Program) & Hadyn (Hunger Awareness Program)

Kudos to the William & Mary students who came over to share in a day of fun, work and fellowship with some of the homeless who also came to work. We started off around 10:30 with paint brushes, paint buckets and lots of energy (I say we, but I am allergic to paint, so I handled the important things such as getting cofee and pizza.) Between 10:00 til 1:00, we had about 20 people painting, moving boxes, priming walls and cleaning. The building quickly went from dark maroon to a light tan.

Knowing that we have to have all work completed before we can approach the Board of Supervisors for a re-zoning hearing, everyone gladly pitch in together for the goal of a homeless shelter.

Everyone eagerly introduced themselves to one another and headed off in different rooms. Nobody cared who was a student or who was homeless or whose kids belong to what parents, they just worked together as people...a unit who cares about the homeless.

We had several countries represented as well. Misha was excited because she is from Germany and my husband and his 2 boys speak German.

Lisa, of course had one of the more imprtant jobs: she distributed the paint to everyone, when their tray was empty.

At 1:00 and after pizza donated from Domino's, Hadyn and I ran to pick up a couple of girls who offered to paint. It was a joy to meet them, not just because they could truly paint, but because of their experience in community service. Erica started a community service program in her hometown when she was in 6th grade. Now in school, she joined a community service fraternity. She had already spent her morning working on house repairs with the housing partnership program.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to speak much with Connie, because I wanted to cook dinner for everyone for their hard work. Around 5:30 everyone cleanup and made their way to the house for a relaxing time of food and friendship.

All in all, it was a great day! Anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to meet the students of the Sharpe and Hunger programs at W&M, you are missing out! Who says the students and the homeless don't give back to our community?

Thanks and blessings to Hadyn, John, Peter, Misha, Rachael, Joseph, Robbie, Veronica, William, Erica, Connie, Leon, Lisa, Rochelle, Robert, Junior, Lamar, Ivy, Ben, Geoffrey Todd, and my husband Geoff for all their hard work and a great day!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Now since I have a few minutes of peace and quiet, I will try to backtrack from the storm. We moved our last few boxes into the house Mon. the 15th, just in time for us to prepare for Hurricane Isabel's arrival. That night I had to go out to a local church to speak. I was so tired from moving and tired (as I told them) of talking about homelessness. I was only wanting to talk about the hurricane. We talked for a few minutes about everyone's preperations and then came the shock "I find Hurricane Isabel a blessing. I pray for the changes that will soon be coming. With everyone running around in a panic of where will they sleep, do they have enough to eat, what about water, no electricity? Well, now Williamsburg gets to feel some of what the homeless think about every day!" "Wow, how did you turn around a potential disaster and bring about the issue of homelessness?" somebody asked. "I didn't. God did." Remember God states in the Bible if you turn away the poor and needy and shun them then He will show you what it is like to be poor and needy. No, I didn't want anyone to be hurt or lose their house, but the mental fear of the storm was enough for attitudes to change.

We had already advised people among the street and weekly motels we were opening up our house for a shelter during the storm and by Tuesday had 12 people wanting to come in for a few days. Tuesday and Wednesday I ran around to a few churches that donated $500.00 for food and supplies and to motels that had donated blankets. We were swimming in a sea of boxes, but Robert and Geoff cleared rooms for people to be able to sleep. Thursday morning I was receiving calls from even up in Hampton to see if we could help. I had already had over 60 calls for people to come stay. By noon, the winds started picking up and the rain starting hitting. I went out to the weekly motels to check on and pick up those who had called in to come over. Most of them decided not to come because this hurricane wasn't so bad. I tried to explain this wasn't the hurrican, but they didn't feel any threat from the weather. So I made my way around to the different motels. One couple, who I have never met, but were homeless wanted to come. Geoff ran by to get them so I could go on. I stopped at a motel that doesn't have homeless, but they help me out in times of rooms for people so I went to see if everything was fine. They were full, but since the power was off, and they didn't have a generator, nobody had a way to eat. So since I needed to change into fresh dry clothes, I also packed up some bread, peanut buter and jelly, fresh tea, water and chips and headed back out. After running back to the hotel, I made my way down into the woods to search out people. Unfortunately, the rain was too hard and trees were coming down too fast to make it through. I had no choice but to turn around. I headed down to the mobile home parks on the edge of Williamsburg. Most of the people had left town.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Wow, finally we are back up and running. I am too tired to blog tonight, since the cable company just left (after 7 hours of installing.) Notice we have a new phone number...757-345-0880 Also I am still trying to get the email back up as well. Will blog tomorrow. Things are good, bad and so so