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."

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to get ready for Christmas! Yesterday I, with some help from my friends, started to put up the lights and decorate our house. I figured since many of the homeless do not have a place to decorate, it would be nice to have them come over to help in the festivities. Personally, I find the decorating better than the gifts. Today we are trimming the tree with lights and ornaments.

Last year in our old house we were nicknamed 'the beacon' because we had so many lights outside. This year, who knows.

While decorating the outside, we had an idea to do a live nativity scene in our yard. Thus far we figure we would schedule it for 2 hours each day of the weekend. A neighbor has several sheep and a mule that could play along in our plans. But, if you remember, Joseph and Mary were homeless at the time of Jesus' birth. This is just an idea we are playing around with, but we think it would be nice.

Also, we have added many names on the side of the webpage for people having Christmas wishes. The list is growing and may take a few days to enter everyone's wish. Again I remind people in our community that many of the people we work with haven't had a gift in several years. Please help a homelesss person have a nice Christmas this year!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Thanksgiving Greetings!

God provided us with many blessings and new friends this week.

Monday we dropped off 5 turkey baskets (actually moving boxes full with goodies and Thanksgiving supplies) that were provided by God through Steve & Priscilla Bingham and York River Baptist Church. Bless you and thank you for your help. Then Tuesday we had 3 other families call for turkeys and again Priscilla came to the rescue!

Tuesday afternoon we had roughly 20 people over for our Thanksgiving celebration with patrons from the weekly motels and other friends who had nowhere to go for dinner. We actually had 10 people get lost trying to find our home and didn't make it for dinner. After dinner, people sat down and did their letters to Santa for the "Adopt-A-Homeless Person for Christmas" program. The letters from the children were especially sweet. Then it was time to make to go plates and drove people back to their motel rooms.

Thursday was going to be a day of rest for myself, but God didn't see it that way! Many people in the weekly motels, including Family Inn and Days Inn, were confused about the date of the Thanksgiving dinner and called to schedule 'reservations.' I explained the dinner was Tuesday, but told them I would bring to go dinners to them. So off to the kitchen I went to make dinner plates from the leftovers. And again God sent people to help provide meals. Williamsburg United Methodist brought over the extra meals they had prepared (about 35 dinners.) I'm not sure how many they served, but I would say it was over 300 delivered! God Bless you Pastor Dave for the extra food! God stopped me at several other hotels to see if any weekly patrons would be interested in a dinner. I ran into a few patrons that did not speak English and couldn't understand me so I called Geoff and had him translate by cell phone. I left out around 3:00 with 75 meals and collapsed at home around 5:15 with 3 left over.

We pray your time with family and friends are filled with many blessings and cherished moments!
This is a letter of appreciation and appeal: appreciation for the many residents who give so unselfishly to those in our community who are less fortunate. You give your time, your energy, your resources to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, transportation. You make a difference. Thank you.
My appeal is to those of you who regard the needy with indifference, somehow blaming them for their circumstances. You want to deny that we actually have homeless people in our midst. As you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, humbly and honestly ask yourself if anyone in this community deserves--actually deserves--to starve or freeze to death.
Some of you are very opposed to having a shelter for the homeless in the Williamsburg area. Why? A shelter could enable a homeless person to become employable. With proper food, rest, a shower, clean clothes, access to a telephone, and an address, he/she would be an acceptable candidate for employment.
People do need people. When we open our hearts to each other, good things happen.
Ann B. Moore

Friday, November 21, 2003

A New Entry In Our Guestbook...Thanks Elizabeth for the info...I am familiar about this travesty the area is pushing on Mrs. Lee and in support her to keep the motel opened!

Wednesday 11/12/2003 4:50:03pm
Name: Elizabeth Hill
City/Country: San Diego
Comments: Having known the owner of the Tioga Motel personally for many years and if those criticizing how the motel looks would bother to research things, you will find that Mrs. Lee has been fighting the City of Williamsburg not only to improve her property (they won't let her) but the City, with the help of former Mayor Gil Granger who owns the properties across the street, have stolen part of her land. The boundaries of Tioga property extend into the middle of Richmond road. I have seen firsthand the documentation that Mrs. Lee has which include letters from Jackson Tuttle (City Mgr.) admitting the encroachement but they weren't going to pay her for it. The properties accross the street that are owned by the former Mayor (Granger) have been extended physically but surveys independently conducted by VDOT show these properties are where Richmond Road should be. Take my letter and go see Mrs. Lee. She is very nice and will patiently explain it to you.

Start asking the owners of the former Rhodes Service station why they weren't able to open it. The city REFUSED to let the property owners run their OWN property, and they have done a lot of detrimental things to Mrs. Lee in trying to get her property. I am in the process of compiling a factual accounting with documentation of Mrs. Lee's plight. I guarantee you, you will hear about it in the mainstream media. By the way, I worked for Mrs. Lee for 2 years and witnessed first hand the City of Williamsburg illegal activities and what they were doing to her. The problem with the City of Williamsburg is they don't know what "private property rights" mean. At the last Planning Commission meeting, an attorney claiming he represented the property owners got up and stated that he had the full support of the property owners to develop the properties for William and Mary. It would have passed but Mrs. Lee correctly announced that no one ever talked to HER and this attorney never had an OK from her. This is part of the mess. An attorney who gets up and LIES to city officials (Reed Nestor standing by knowing it was a lie) to get what they want.

There is also a crooked Judge at the James City County Courthouse by the name of Zepkin who is involved in this.

Don't take my word for it, and don't criticize me. Talk to Mrs. Lee. Research on your own.

Elizabeth Hill
Now of San Diego, CA


I went by Mrs. Lee's place yesterday to drop off a flyer for the guest about Thanksgiving. Mrs. Lee and I talked for a bit about her latest delima and what is trying to be done next. She is such a wonderful person and offers so much to the community by helping churches, social services and non-profits in providing affordable place to sleep for their clients. Mrs. Lee asked me if I could help get a petition together and/or get people to write in for support to keep the Tioga opened. I have so far 20 signatures and have spent the past hour calling people across the US who have stayed at the Tioga on a regular basis (searched different guestbook entries and looked up their phone numbers via the internet white pages.) Anyone who wants to sign the petition, please call me at 561-3255 or write a letter and send it to Mrs. Lee at 906 RICHMOND ROAD WILLIAMSBURG, VA 23185.

Here are a couple of guestbook entries about the Tioga Motel and Mrs. Lee.

When you visit Williamsburg, please check out the Tioga Motel on Richmond Road. It it one of the quietest places you could possibly find to stay. The rooms are clean and well maintained. The lady that owns and operates it is a wonderful conversationalist and always available to assist in helping you find what you need in the town. We visited Williamsburg on a whim and were driving by and thought we would just check out the rates and the room accomadations and when we asked to see a room we were told that it was the last one available. Our guard immadiately went up, as we assumed it was probably one noone else waned. How shocked were we when we saw that the room was clean, neat and cozy. It was cool and did not at al look like we expected. There was even a small kitchen with pots. dishes. silverware and all the amenities of home. We immediately took the room and ended up staying for four nights at a price that would have cost us a mint any place else with less. We highly reccommend that you check out this little piece of paridise in the town that is so geared to grabbing your wallet and not letting go. Mrs. Lee will surely see that you get a good deal and a peaceful stay. M. Rossier USA - Saturday, October 05, 2002 at 09:01:59

Our son is now a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. When we went down to Williamsburg this past weekend to visit during Family Weekend, we followed the advice of a work colleague whose son went to William & Mary several years ago, and the April 23, 2002 advice posted here from Elizabeth Hilliard of La Mesa, CA. We stayed at the Tioga Motel. The Tioga is within EASY walking distance of the William & Mary campus and thus allowed us to park and leave our car all weekend. The Tioga is also a wonderful piece of bygone America, which the proprietress, Mrs. Lee, is in the process of lovingly restoring. [See a picture at www.williamsburgpostcards.com/lodging/lodg24.htm.] The Tioga was originally built in 1938 by Mrs. Lee's brother-in-law and it is the oldest continually operating motor court in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The rooms are basic, neat and clean with wonderful full-tiled shower stalls, air conditioning units, remote controlled color TV, refrigerator and some have a little kitchenette -- all at a VERY reasonable price! We plan to make this little gem our regular lodging choice while visiting William & Mary over the next four years (perhaps the next six years since our younger son now wants to go to William & Mary also)! A little story of how nice this little motel is . . . When we checked in we noted that one of the metal chairs at the table in our efficiency suite had a collapsed leg where a weld had obviously finally given out. We mentioned this casually the next morning to Mrs. Lee and then went off to our Family Weekend events at the college. When we returned in the early evening, brand new, carved high-backed oak chairs had replaced all of the vintage metal chairs! This is indeed a nice little motel with an owner who cares and who is trying to preserve an important part of Americana in Williamsburg -- the motor court inn. On second thought, perhaps we should not share this little secret since we want to be sure we can always get a place at the Tioga on our visits to William & Mary. :) John and Molly Tew Purcellville, VA USA - Monday, September 30, 2002 at 08:23:15 (EDT)

Monday night W&M kicked off their observance of the National Homeless Awareness Week with a three person panel on homelessness. I was honored by being allowed to sit on the panel with Deena (a previous homeless person who has since gotten a home) and a Catholic Nun who helps to operate the P.O.R.T. program in Newport News. The two questions we were asked were: 1) What was your personal experience of homelessness? and 2) What can we do to help the homeless?
My insight into homelessness consisted of "Don't assume it can't happen to you," among other things. See, the first time I was homeless I was with my the mother of my kids. We both had college degrees and we were renting from a missionary to Africa. His wife got some rare disease and they had to come home for emergency medical treatment. It wasn't our fault they needed their house back. So, we had to stay with family while we looked for a house. Then our house didn't get finished properly, so we ended up bouncing around from friend to friend for nine months. The second time I was homeless was when my ex-wife and I separated. She gave me two hours to pack and get out. Again, it wasn't that I was an addict or a drunk (because I wasn't). But it came so unexpectedly that I had no money, nor a place to go, etc. The point I was trying make to these "over-achieving" students is that an education is no guarantee that they won't experience homelessness themselves.
Secondly, as you may have read here if you keep up with this web-page, homelessness is about hopelessness. When there is no hope of ever "being somebody again," there's no point in getting out of the situation. When you don't believe that "you are somebody," there's no point in making good decisions. Then when you've made bad decisions, you affirm to yourself that you aren't "a somebody," and you lose even more hope. And thus the cycle begins and as it continues it turns into a whirlpool that sucks you ever lower. (That was my experience anyway.) So, "what can we do to help the homeless?" Make them feel like somebody! Give of yourself! Don't give money to them. If they need a sandwich, buy it for them. But then, sit down with them while they eat and spend some time letting them know that you care. We can go out and play football in the rain and get muddy and stinky. We can go to a "rodeo" and chase pigs and get stinky. So, why can't we put our arm around "a bum" who hasn't had a chance to bathe in two weeks and let a little bit of their smell rub off on us? It washes off. But the effect you can have on their lives by showing that you care won't rub off!
Deena spoke of her personal experiences, which I won't share here lest I be inaccurate, and how "the safety net" caught her and helped her get into a home of her own. The big turning point for her was when she gave her heart to Jesus Christ. He transformed her life and she became "a new creature: old things passed away and all things became new." What a sweet and bold witness for our Lord.
"Sister Mary", unfortunately, (in my opinion) is caught up in type-casting. All of her descriptive words for the homeless were "these people, the mentally ill, the drunks and drug addicts," etc. I'm sorry if that is all she gets to deal with. But I wasn't one of "those people" and I was homeless. Most of the homeless I know resent being referred to as "these people." It's as offensive a term as what black people don't like to be called. I'm not knocking her, because I've only known her briefly, and certainly not well enough to judge her motives or opinions, but I was personally offended and I've been off the streets for two years.
Following our solo presentations, the floor was opened to field questions from the thirty-or-so sudents who were present. Many of their questions revolved around the theme of "What do we do next?" or "Where do we go to help?". But the most often asked question was, "Why is there no shelter in Williamsburg?" That went various directions, but basically was answered with, "The politicians don't want one."
We were able to field questions for about forty-five minutes. Then we adjourned, but continued the Q&A in private conversations as we ate pizza that the students (or their organizations) generously supplied. It was then that I was at liberty to share with some of the students about my faith and how God put Patti and me in this ministry.
My compliments to the students who planned this forum! It seemed to be an effective venue and the fires of compassion that already burn in these young people were fanned even higher. Thank you for letting me participate.
Geoff McKenzie

Sunday, November 16, 2003


Some refer to it as cheesy, with plastic chairs; others say it is a motel for transients; many say the owner, Mrs. Lee is a tough cookie; my opinion for what it is worth, I say all the statements are true to some extent, but it is worth saving. What do I mean by saving? The Tioga Motel is one of the soon to be extinct weekly motels in Williamsburg. Mrs. Lee is very tough, but she needs to be. Her motel was built in 1940 and considering it's age and Mrs. Lee's age (she is around 70ish), they both have a lot of character to offer the area. The Tioga has roughly 25 rooms, a nice large in-ground pool and a well-paved parking area. Actually the motel is in better shape than Mrs. Lee. She is very sick but still kicking'. Mrs. Lee has always kept the rooms in good condition and the outside is well maintained, except it still reflects the style of the 40's. The property is worth a little over half a million and Mrs. Lee is priceless.

So why does all this matter? Why am I blogging about an older lady in her 70's and a motel that is one of the few still opened or not sold yet? Because she and the motel matters to many that call it home, including Mrs. Lee. Many of the churches place transients at the Tioga when they have nowhere to sleep. Many of the working homeless live in the rooms. And even visitors stay during the tourist season here. Mrs. Lee is strict, because she wants to keep a nice, wholesome appearance at her motel and does not allow anyone to stay together if they are not married, nor does she allow any drug usage or rowdiness on her property. So if you consider that strict, then so be it. But, I consider it a proper old fashion personality that maybe if other motel owners had; their hotels would be as well maintained as hers.

As a matter of fact, another hotel owner 2 doors down at the Southern Inn is trying to close down the Tioga. Why? Well, for many reasons. First of all, he has not maintained his motel as well as Mrs. Lee. He has allowed many people to shack up, hang out drunk outside the rooms and rent to patrons that have illegal activity on the property. Also, recently his back rooms on the property have been cited for health violations (bad plumbing that leaks sewage into the ground). But he has a plan! He is going to have the zoning changed and build college apartments on the few parcels of land he owns. This is more economic for him than the people that live in it currently. Yes, the building plans look nice and updated. It will cost a lot of money and his family has it to pay for the new construction, but what about the people who live in the motel now? Oh and what about parking? Well the two questions are easy to answer. He kicked everyone out of his motel, except a couple of people who work for him. And the parking? Well, that is where Mrs. Lee comes in.

Awhile back he tried to buy Mrs. Lee's property, yet she refused to sell it to him. So again he has tried and again she refused. So the next alternative? Get the city to condemn the building and include it by force in his plan for the college apartments. Well, as I have stated, Mrs. Lee is a tough cookie so she is fighting with all her might to save her motel and the people who need it. Actually, I have also joined in her efforts to keep the Tioga open. The building is more well maintained than any of the weekly motels; they have the least amount of trouble on the property than any of the weekly motels; the rates are affordable enough for the working homeless to call it home; and Mrs. Lee lives in the front of the building versus most motel owners who don't oversee the patrons and the property.

Oh but wait, if the Tioga is closed (because of the almighty dollar of a man whose family already have millions and no concern for the people they make money off of), doesn't that mean that Mrs. Lee, an 80ish year old lady who cares about the people that stay at her motel, will be homeless as well? What has happened to an area that once said it took pride in it's preservation of history, (especially now that Colonial Williamsburg is laying people off of work at the highest rate this area has seen)? Where has peoples' hearts sunk? And who will care if another motel closes and people are put onto the street?

I don't know about you, but the last I checked, people had feelings. It just seems around here the only feelings that are thriving are greed, money, bigger and better, poor, cold, loneliness, abandonment and fear. Just goes to show the rich get richer at someone else's expense and the poor get the street or prison.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

As Thanksgiving Day grows closer, most of us are consumed with grocery lists, guest lists and post Turkey Day diet plans. Some of us are already unpacking the Christmas lights, knowing we need the extra time to untangle the many strands that await to be hung by our husbands while the wives are out shopping on the busiest sale day of the year. Those of us who are kind hearted help the churches prepare the many meals that are distributed to the elderly, people who are shut-in, less fortunate families or the needy.

But, there lies a class within Greater Williamsburg that are overlooked, not only on a daily basis, but sadly enough during the holidays: the homeless. The working homeless that live in the few weekly motels (although these motels are slowly becoming extinct,) are allotted the kindness and convenience of a hot meal delivered to them by many of the churches; but what about the homeless that sleep beneath our bridges, or abandoned buildings or in the woods? The convenience of delivering a hot Thanksgiving meal to them is a problem. How many people would go out searching under the bridges or into the woods with cooked turkeys and all the trimmings?

This Thanksgiving and Christmas in Williamsburg has a new twist though for the homeless. Patti McKenzie (founder of Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent) and her husband Geoff will be opening their house on Nov. 25th with a Thanksgiving dinner invitation extended to all the people who are homeless, live in the weekly motels or lost their home due to Hurricane Isabel. With no strings attached, just people fellowshipping and giving thanks with each other. Transportation will be provided for all that need rides as well. And the excitement doesn't end when the leftovers are distributed, dishes washed and stomachs are full. While many others are out shopping or hanging Christmas decorations, the McKenzies are taking names, ages and Christmas gift wishes for their program, "Adopt-A-Homeless for Christmas." This is along the same line as the "Angel Wish Tree" program, except the adoptees are homeless people and their children. We have met several people that have suffered through 4 - 10 Christmases without a gift, stocking or even a card. Their wishes vary from warm coats, bikes, and sweaters to jobs, a friend to talk with and hope.

Patti and Geoff are still searching for a store to sponsor the placement of the Christmas tree filled with adoptees. They have already received several people who have signed up for the program, in hopes to have their wish fulfilled or a stocking on Nov. 23rd when Santa makes his appearance at the McKenzies' Christmas celebration. If you would like additional information, want to donate food or time for either event, are homeless and want to sign up for either event or are interested in adopting a homeless person/child call 561-3255.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Here is the article that has many in an uproar...I would love for Dr. Baker to speak with this young minded student!

Bake Sale Reignites Controversy
by Nicole Schroeder, DSJ Staff Reporter

What started out as a bake sale now has the College community up in arms in a new debate on the ever-current issue of cultural diversity on campus. The controversy stems from the new student organization, the Sons of Liberty, and their anti-affirmative action bake sale that occurred last Saturday and sold cookies and brownies to students at different prices based on race. The issue has moved far beyond affirmative action, however, and is causing students to question how comfortable the College is for minority students.

“Absolutely the College cannot allow discriminatory practices to occur on this campus, period. And won’t,” Vice President of Student Affairs W. Samuel Sadler said, calling the action an assault on a community that prides itself on its openness and diversity.

“I am shocked and appalled at the callous and insensitive actions of the ‘Sons of Liberty,’” Student Assembly President Brian Cannon said in a statement. His sentiments echoed an SA Senate resolution passed Wednesday night condemning the action.

The Sons of Liberty are a new libertarian student organization, unaffiliated with any national organization, whose goal is to promote the ideas of the libertarian party and to focus on returning the government exclusively to its Constitutional roots.

“I’m opposed to affirmative action as are basically all Libertarians,” William Coggin, freshman and co-founder of Sons of Liberty, said, explaining that they find it discriminatory. The bake sale was an attempt to illustrate that discrimination.

“We had different prices based on your race,” Coggin said, “and it went progressively down for Asians, Blacks, Hispanics.”

The bake sale went on in the University Center lobby until about 3 p.m. when Administration officials showed up and asked the Sons of Liberty to sell all goods at a uniform price for everyone. Rather than give in, Coggin decided to leave, aware that their actions were in violation of College policy.

“You could call our policies discriminative, but the whole point was to show how affirmative action itself was racist,” Coggin said. “The point of the stand was obvious.”

Sadler said that the action was in blatant violation of Student Handbook section which states, “Each member of the College community has a right in his/her dealings with the institutions, and with members of the College community in the performance of their official duties, to be free from discriminatory treatment with regard to race, creed, gender, religion, national origin, or political belief.”

“I guess by the technical, legal definition we did discriminate,” Coggin said.

For now the exact consequences of their actions are to be determined, but they are scheduled to meet with Mark Constantine of Student Activities on Monday. The Sons of Liberty defend their action citing the first amendment provision of free speech, and Sophomore and co-founder Pat Reilly, in particular, was surprised by the outcome of the bake sale.

“I thought it was such a simple thing like a cookie, I didn’t think anyone would be offended by the price of a cookie,” Reilly said. “The point of the bake sale was just to raise awareness. It was not to offend anybody.”

Junior Colin Mubukwa, a minority student, got a very different impression that the Sons of Liberty were saying:

“You have to defend your right to be here and you have to prove to me that you had to work as hard as I did,” he said.

Overall, Coggin and Reilly felt that they were successful in raising awareness about affirmative action and their view that it is unfair and should be eliminated. According to Coggin, their booth received plenty of smiles and thumbs up from passers-by. At the same time, it sparked a debate that would be followed by a meeting on Tuesday that dozens of people attended to discuss affirmative action.

“That was excellent. There were a lot of good points made on both sides,” said Reilly. Coggin added that a lot of people, particularly minority students, showed up to oppose them.

Mukubwa attended the meeting, but felt differently, saying that the Sons of Liberty were unable to answer the request for a definition of affirmative action.

“The fact that they didn’t have any substance behind what they did was more offensive than the actual [bake sale],” Mukubwa said.

Mukubwa is currently concerned and disenchanted with the College and its relationship with minority students, so much so that he is hesitant to host minority prospective students this weekend.

“We can’t go out there with a good conscience and recruit students to come,” he said.

This worries the administration and many other students, who are concerned about the College’s ambiance as well as its national reputation.

“Do minority students feel welcome at the College?” Cannon said. “So far minority students have felt that this is a direct attack.” He emphasized the need for the entire campus community to stand with minority students to show the world that the College is not a racist institution.

Coggin expressed that people need not be concerned about the College’s reputation, stating that Sons of Liberty did not have the College’s endorsement to engage in their bake sale, and therefore their actions would not reflect on the College. While his colleague Reilly stated that he did not anticipate diversity at the College to be impeded by the repercussions of the bake sale, Coggin had a different view. He said that he came to the College with the express purpose to learn and study International Relations, adding that if he had wanted to learn about different cultures he could take classes about them.

“As to actual diversity I think it may have some value to some people more than others, but in terms of my personal interest… it isn’t at the top of my list,” Coggin said. “It should be an optional preference.”

The sentiments of the administration and the other students including the SA Senate and Cannon could be summed up by Mubukwa:

“Different perspectives… is what people can build on to discover new things, new ideas.”
Well, things have been hectic (like always). I have been involved in the W&M Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week preparations for next week. I am excited to be a part of the upcoming events (and received a very nice T-Shirt out for the offerred help, although I think I would like to send it to Kevin, aka the Homeless Guy.) On top of giving small bits of advice to the groups planning the events next week, we have also been planning our Thanksgiving Day. I am a little nervous about the 25th because we haven't had much response from people wanting to donate food for the homeless. But, hey what do you expect in a town that claims they have no homeless? Our church, York River, and a sweet couple who reach out to the lost have pledged turkey baskets and my 'adopted father' is picking up some supplies from Sam's Club next week (actually I should clarify the statement of 'adopted father' since my sisters visit this webpage...this man looks identical to my Daddy...literally when I met him I started to cry cuz of how much he looks like him.) I know we still have a week to go to raise funds or food for Thanksgiving and I have to leave it to God. So far we have an estimated 30 people coming and I still am awaiting for confirmation from another 25+ people who have no place to cook, money to eat out or no home. We also have 4 families that we are helping to provide supplies to so they can cook their own meals (mostly people we have recently helped to get into homes.)

In regards to the events next week, I will try to blog each night, but can't promise.
After speaking with Hadyn briefly today about a new freshman at school who is in full support of white affirmative action, I had to go to the website www.dogstreetjournal myself to read his article. But, instead of finding his, I found Prof. Royster's response instead. After reading her article, I had to call her in support. We are in an area (Williamsburg) that is made up of the upper elite, W&M College and the working poor. The population of middle-class is few and the homeless population falls between the cracks of society.

When I spoke with Prof. Royster, I wanted to let her know how much I enjoyed the article and the fact she teaches and stands on the rights of all people. Although I do agree with freedom of speech, I do not believe in racial slurs or even hostil activities against another human, especially if it is racial. But, I am excited to see what forums will come of her article and plan to be there for support of the people who are typically made to be the scapegoat of society's imbalance.

It goes back to an earlier blog that I wrote about crayons. You see, without a diverse group of colors (or people), a box of crayons would not be complete. This is the same for the world. It takes all of us to maintain the population of the world. There is no such thing as white or black or olive or yelllow in my world...there are just people. The last time I checked, we all bleed the color red.

"A Box of Crayons"
How many different colors make up a box of crayons? Depending on the time period you were raised in, it varies: 16, 32, 64, 96, 128 and so on. But I have never seen a box of crayons made up of black and white! Have you? So why does our society have to feel people are that way? Although it is obvious that many different 'colors' make up our world, my husband nor myself view people on that level. We don't decide who we are friends with based on race, gender, origin, or nationality; we are friends with people that we share common bonds and interest with. We have several friends that are Hispanic, Italian, Asian, Black and White. Some people who work with us in our ministry are even examples of this. Our common bond being the love and concern for homeless people. Many of the people who work with us monetarily are also examples of this. Down south, my husband had a crew that consisted of ALL people, not just one 'race'. We don't nor will we ever base our friends or co-workers with 'rose colored glasses', but with color-blind shades. People who do not like our friends, don't have to be friends with them. People who don't like our co-workers don't have to work with or hire them. People who don't like us because of this don't have to associate with us, because we do have other friends. Our box of crayons is made up of many colors that God created...and by the way, we color outside of the lines also! (In other words, we don't conform because others say we have to.)

An Open Letter to the William and Mary Community

by Deirdre A. Royster

Students, white and black, in my courses have been alerting me about recent and troubling activities on the campus--activities led by students who are hostile to affirmative action and programs that assist students of color in managing racially hostile environments, like some majority-white college settings. Of course, many white students are not aware that many majority-white institutions, including colleges, have been and continue to be hostile environments for many students of color. We tend to think of colleges as welcoming spaces for all--but most majority-white colleges didn't admit significant numbers of minorities, like African Americans, until the late 1960s and early 1970s. The backlash against the admission of even a few black (and many other minority) students has been open and severe, but now it is usually more covert. William and Mary's student body is 80% white and 4% black--even though the state of Virginia is 70% white and 20% black--with such small numbers of African American students, we might expect racial hostilities to remain hidden or undercover in our publicly-supported college, but that's not what's happening.

Hostilities have come above ground in at least two ways. They have come above ground in op ed pieces that hurt and annoy my students, who have been examining research that directly contradicts both the faulty logic and information expressed in the editorials. And they have come above ground in more creative public strategies. Apparently, a group of students recently held a bake sale in the UC in which white students were expected to pay one amount for goods, while students of color were charged far less--and all the while the cookie-peddlers played the game of "ghetto-opoly" (a racially-insensitive and repugnant "game"). I'm sure this scenario was played out to illustrate the alleged advantages of being of color and disadvantages of being white these days--but I wonder if the students are aware how ironic their display was. Afterall, it demonstrates the need for programs to support students of color who must endure just those kinds of painful and hostile scenarios.

The scenario had the effect of deeply disturbing my students, especially those of color, who were made to feel even less welcome on the campus than they already felt. My white students were annoyed and angered by the acts of their co-racials who seem unaware of the persisting and pressing patterns of racial vulnerability that people of color face in labors markets, housing markets, consumer markets and other spheres within American society. My students don't understand how people who have not learned about the nature of racial privilege and disadvantage in the U.S can smugly assert opinions that are not supported by research. They do not share and cannot understand that sort of arrogance, nor can they imagine that such efforts can actually undermine college policies that try to enhance the experiences of racially vulnerable students. And yet they are watching it happen.

I share their concerns, but I remain a committed protector of freedom of speech--even hostile, hurtful, and uninformed speech. Why? Because when views are closeted, especially widely held ones, they cannot be addressed and challenged. I see colleges as wonderful and appropriate spaces within which to address faulty thinking. But I hate it that my students of color and their many white friends are hurting and frustrated at what they accurately perceive to be hostile acts designed to create disunity in the student body as well as to topple any college efforts to make William and Mary more welcoming for students of color.

As chair of the sociology department, I would like to encourage--no, invite--all students who would like to be better informed about patterns of racial inequality and policies that aim to address that inequality to take sociology courses. We have many insights and tools to offer that will enable you to subject the views expressed in editorials (and other activities) to serious critical analysis. I challenge the students who have participated in the sorts of activities I've mentioned to stop posing as authorities and subject your views to critical analysis--within William and Mary classrooms and beyond. Stay tuned for public forums…


Deirdre A Royster
Associate Professor and Chair,
Department of Sociology

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

W&M Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week Schedule

Mon. Nov. 17th 7:30 Faces of Homeless Panel is being held in
the common area of Spotswood Lounge. The panel consists of
people who have been homeless, are currently homeless and
providers that assist the homeless. The community is invited
to the discussion group for a better understanding of the
problems the homeless face in Greater Williamsburg.

Tues. Nov. 18th 6:00-7:00 Professor Popp to speak on
homelessness in the Washington Building Room 302. Professor
Popp is the director of Project Hope.

Wed. Nov. 19th 7:00 Professor Basu to speak on world hunger
in the Andrew Building Room 100. Professor Basu's research
interests are in international economics and development
economics and the economics of hunger.

Thurs. Nov. 20th 7:30 Acapella concert in the Ewell Recital
Hall. Performances will be provided by Common Ground, One
Accord, and Cleftomaniacs. Tickets are available for $2.00
or 1 can of soup donation at the door or in the UC.

Fri. Nov. 21st 4:00-7:00 Discussion prior to the
movie "Hidden In America" followed by discussion dispelling
the myths of poverty, hunger and homelessness after the
movie. The event will be in the Washington Building Room
317. The movie is about a man, Bill Januson, whose pride in
being the head of his family won't let him accept help from
his sick daughters doctor. He has to prove to his kids that
even with the death of his wife and the loss of his job that
they can and will survive. After hitting brick wall after
brick wall comes a glimmer of hope.

Sat. Nov. 22nd Sunrise at 6am in Wren courtyard begins the
start of a day of fasting. Sunset at 5pm in the same place
we will gather as the fast ends with a discussion of the

Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week 2003 T-Shirts are available
for $10.00 each throughout the week in the UC.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Sometimes a single fact is all it takes to change your perception of the Williamsburg community. For me, it was learned in my first week here at the college as a freshman, when my professor explained the nature of the economy in Williamsburg as an hourglass with extreme polarization of the upper and lower classes, and very little middle class to stabilize it. The total impact upon me of learning this fact (hereafter referred to as “my fact”) was unbeknownst to me until now, and will probably continue to affect me. While unremarkable to some, my fact shaped my goals as a student and as a member, albeit for a decidedly transitory period, of this community.

Some of those who are more established in the community than students are, may be in denial that homeless people make up a growing percentage of the population. I can assure you however, to new students, the homeless problem is not common knowledge. Many simply do not know that the problem exists, or else are unaware that there are pitifully few services that advocate for the homeless. Students express surprise when I tell them that Williamsburg does not even have a homeless shelter, and the fact that most students would consider the existence of a shelter a “given” in every community further underscores the need for one. The efforts of the Sharpe community partners, Community Service Leaders, the Hunger Awareness Taskforce, and the Williamsburg Homeless & Indigent are that much more necessary and welcome. With their help, students are becoming 100% more aware than they were before: simply knowing that homelessness exists in a place like Williamsburg is momentous. Just as I experienced with my fact, a vast reshaping of perception takes place.

But how will you know when this fact slaps you in the face? Well, sometimes it requires a kick in the pants to get you started. My kick took the shape of a muddy, alcohol-stained woman with dirty clothes speaking at our Night in a Box event last year organized by the Hunger Awareness Taskforce. I had been involved in the Sharpe Community Partnership program and the HATforce, which had giving me an outlet for teaching others about my fact. When Patti McKenzie took the stage on the Sunken Gardens at our sleep-out, I was angry at first because she criticized our event and said that it did not accurately represent the situation most homeless people are in. I argued that she should not have been so harsh with her diatribe because all we had wanted to do was raise awareness. And what she wanted to do was raise awareness as well. She wanted to make people aware that the homeless are stereotyped (alcohol-stained, muddy clothes with mental or alchol problems) throughout the country. But the homeless in Williamsburg are hard to find or realize they are here because most don't fit the stereotype. Most of the time, you wouldn't know a person here was homeless, unless they told you. But instead of forgetting about it, I called her with more questions and spent an afternoon driving around town getting a tour of the Williamsburg that you don’t see in brochures. The value of my fact had expanded to lead me down another path.

It is impossible to know completely how influential a piece of knowledge can be. But only awareness can foment change, and awareness begins with a single fact. Here’s a way we can test my theory. After reading this article, you now know that homelessness exists in Williamsburg. What you do with this information is up to you. Will you allow your enthusiasm and awareness to be cultivated and shared, taught and expanded upon, to create a society in which a shelter would be embraced? Perhaps I will not have to wistfully hope for the day that such a society would exist here in Williamsburg.