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, November 30, 2004


As of Dec 29th we are homeless....but not for long! I WON'T STOP UNTIL GOD SAYS SO, AND NOBODY HERE IS GOD!
My Daily Devotional Reading

What is the evidence of God's strength?

". . . I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you . . . " Job 40:1-42:3 NLT

Friday, November 26, 2004

A Truly Thankful Thanksgiving

As most of you may have already read, the day before Thanksgiving, we had to have people who are homeless leave the property. Although it was a very sad occasion, many people came together to assist in motel rooms. We had already made plans for a big, busy Thanksgiving day and decided to keep them. But, when Geoff and I woke up, the phone started ringing from different TV stations. They wanted to find out what our plans were and could they come to do a story. I told them we were taking meals out to people living in the weekly motels. Then, shortly after I hung up the phone, an advocate for the homeless, Dennis Grannon and his family, showed up to volunteer. Then by 11:00 we had a full house. TV reporters, friends, volunteers, and displaced homeless friends were gathered around. Williamsburg United Methodist delivered Thanksgiving fixings in bulk to our home so we could prepare dinners. Everyone was busy making plates, bagging food, being interviewed and loading the Jeep. Even Craig Civale helped out in between news reports.

Then it was off to Family Inn to meet up with some of the guys who use to stay with us and deliver food. At Family Inn alone we had 30 people that signed up for Thanksgiving meals. Craig followed us around and interviewed people at the motel. Steve, one of our homeless friends, said
"This is the best Thanksgiving, since my mother passed away! I am enjoying greeting people when they open the door with food and Happy Thanksgiving!"
I think even the news reporter enjoyed it. Meanwhile, back at the house, people were still busy making more dinners for the other deliveries.

After we were finished, Alicia and I drove all our displaced friends back to the house for lunch and a breather before heading out to the next set of motels. Our home was filled with joy as we were celebrating a 'family reunion'. Steve, Smitty and I headed out to Super 8 motel down the road from our house. When I went inside to get the list from the manager, he said "Oh good you are here this year! I wasn't sure if you were coming, but I know the guest will be glad." After 8 rooms, we decided to go to Anderson Corner. Last year I didn't deliver there, but thought it would be worth the drive. Well, it wasn't because we found out when we arrived the County had closed down the motel. Actually, several of the motels I delivered to last year had been closed. No wonder so many people are displaced in Williamsburg. By 4:30, we had delivered 80+ meals and were tired. Unfortunately, we have many more meals needing to be delivered.

We went back home to watch the news cast and fix dinner for our family. By 8:00 we were all gathered (well almost all of us because some people had to work) around the table in prayer for being together once again and the bountiful food God provided. Smitty slipped out onto the deck to reflect upon dinner and the fact he hasn't had a family Thanksgiving in over 6 years. His mother is in a nursing home, one of his brothers passed a few months ago with cancer and his other brother's wife is currently passing as well.
"This is the closest thing I have to a family in many years and now we are taken away from you" he said with tears in his eyes.
Shortly after pumpkin pie, Geoff drove everyone back to their motels. We didn't want to take a chance on the turkey making everyone sleepy (as it always does) and people falling asleep at our home and us being in violation of having homeless people sleeping at our house!

But, by the end of the evening, we were all thankful for being together, praising God and feeding people who had no financial means for a Thanksgiving meal or family to spend it with.

2Co 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.
Update To Our Closing

When Code/Compliance came back to verify we removed everyone from our property, I was able to find out who turned us in. All I kept thinking was "Who could be so cruel as to displace so many people, including a 20 month old baby, her 4 year old brother and parents?" But, I never thought I would be so shocked as when I heard "Linda Hoyle reported you to the Officials."

Here is the background. Ned was released from jail on Aug. 25th. He could have been released before then, but because he had nowhere to go, Judge Powell wouldn't allow it. Ned's attorney called me to see if I could take him in. At court, Judge Powell ordered him to our house without a change of residence without court permission. Later that evening I went to pick him up. Ned was a sweet older gentleman who looked a lot like Santa Claus. As a matter of fact, he use to dress up as Santa for Salvation Army's Christmas events.

Ned was very sick with several medical conditions. His meds were endless. We were trying to help get him into an assisted care facility. Then in Oct., Ned's doctor requested a medical assessment here at our home. When I heard, I called a friend at Olde Towne Medical to ask about the lady who was coming to do the medical assessment. "Oh she is great. She can help to expedite in getting him into a care facility" I was told. A couple days later, Linda, along with Ned's sister and another lady showed up to meet with Ned. The other lady was where Ned was going to be moving. She and her husband have a license for 5 people to live with them where they care for their medical needs. At one point, Linda and I got into a conversation about the homeless problem in Williamsburg. "Patti, there isn't a problem here. Each municipality takes care of their own and those who live on the streets are there by their choice" she claimed. Ouch! I didn't know what hurt worse in her: her hardened heart or her closed-minded brain. "Then who are the people who live with us? And why did Judge Powell order Ned here?" I asked.

So now you know what wasn't told.

Residents Homeless After Being Forced Out of York County Couple's Home

York County officials are cracking down on a residential home that gives shelter to the needy. Now dozens of people have no where to go over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Patti and Jeff McKenzie had to evict 19 people Wednesday - including a family of four - because York County building inspectors say they're violating zoning laws.

The county says people not related to the McKenzie's are not allowed to live in their home.

"We're interested in the safety of the citizens," says York County Building Code officials Marianne Harris.

"This building was constructed not for human habitation," Harris says of a barn on the Mackenzie's property where some of the families stay. The others stay in the McKenzie's residence.

"There's no where for people to go here," says a tearful Patti McKenzie about Wednesday's situation.

The Mackenzie's know they will be fined for the violations -- but they don't know how much. The fines are expected to be in the thousands of dollars.

If you would like to help the people and families displaced, call the Williamsburg Homeless and Indigent Program at 345-0880.

York County shelter closes on eve of Thanksgiving

08:40 PM EST on Thursday, November 25, 2004


For the second time this week a homeless people have been forced to move out of a shelter that's been helping them with a warm meal and a roof over their heads.

A shelter in York County closed Wednesday because it did not have the proper permits to operate. Earlier this week, the people who run a Suffolk shelter kicked 18 people out because of a number of issues.

"It's better than a jail cell, if you're going to be arrested for being homeless," said Pattie McKenzie, of the shelter she used to operate. "It is less than a motel."

Over a dozen people were put out, including Stephen Kokser.

"It's upsetting to know that the day before Thanksgiving this can happen," he said.

The closure didn't stop the McKenzie and her church from making the holiday special. They made over 100 Thanksgiving meals, packed them up and brought them to the families affected by the shelter's closing.

York County officials do not deny McKenzie was doing a good deed operating the shelter, but they said the building was not safe.

In other news, the 18 men, women and children staying at the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless are staying in a hotel for the next several days. The shelter evicted them Tuesday night.

Officials said they were kicked out because residents weren't doing their part to get back on their feet. They said they told residents ahead of time that the shelter would be closing for the holiday weekend.

The city is working to find new shelters for the displaced people.
Homeless Shelter Closes In Williamsburg

Nate Custer Reporting

(York County, VA, November 26th, 2004, 6:32 a.m.) A big setback came for some homeless people in the Williamsburg area this holiday season, and local folks are trying to help them out. York County officials have closed down a homeless shelter which had been operating for more than a year.

A couple who lives in the Lightfoot area have been providing a safe haven for folks who are down on their luck and without a place to stay. But now, the homeless have been forced out into motels because the county says the shelter violates building codes and zoning.

Patti McKenzie and other volunteers were busy at her rented home in Lightfoot packing up Thanksgiving dinners to feed folks who are barely surviving, living in weekly motels in the area. McKenzie heads up a ministry known as Help The Homeless, and for more than a year she's been letting people without homes live in a building behind her house.

But now that the County has closed down the shelter, people living there, including Brian and Jenna Vincent and their two children, have moved into motels. Vincent has a number of medical problems which keep him from working. He told us, "As soon as I start moving and doing things, my muscles start to get inflamed, my joints swell and I'm in intense pain after an hour and a half and I can't work."

McKenzie says the faces of the homeless are changing. "It's no longer what people typically think of someone who's drunk, doing drugs, or don't want to be on their own. Over 90 percent of the people that we work with all have jobs. It's just the cost of living here is high and the pay wages are low."

So what does Vincent think of County officials closing the shelter where he and his family have lived for more than a month? "If I would be in their shoes and turn down a place that's actually helping people without homes and helping the helpless, I wouldn't be able to sleep."

Patti and the volunteers who work with her hope to locate about 12 acres where they could establish a permanent shelter for the homeless. But for the time being, they are helping people stay in budget motels in the area.

York officials order evacuation of shelter
A York woman providing a safe haven for the homeless was operating without a permit and violating building codes.


Published November 25, 2004

YORK -- Patti McKenzie was forced Wednesday afternoon to evacuate homeless residents from a shelter she has been running from her home for the past year.

Since moving to the Lightfoot area in September of 2003, McKenzie has been using her own money - $45,000 a year she gets from a trust fund - to pay for the food and shelter of homeless people. Many of the people are referred to her by area nonprofit agencies and churches, she said.

On Tuesday, county officials told her that she had to clear out all of the people staying on her property by 2 p.m. Wednesday, citing building code and zoning violations, she said. She will be fined for the violations, she said. She would not disclose the number of people she had to evacuate.

"Everybody's basically been crying," she said.
Most of her residents are now staying in motels, but many of them will eat Thanksgiving dinner at her house, she said.

Tuesday's order was not McKenzie's first warning from the county. Last year, county officials told her she could not operate a homeless shelter without the proper permits, she said. But after Hurricane Isabel, she could not turn people away who needed shelter, she said.

"They don't realize that there is really no place for people to go," she said.

Marianne Harris, a county building code official, said the building did not meet code standards. Harris described that building, which sits adjacent to the McKenzie home, as a barn previously used for livestock.

But McKenzie said the building, a 1,200-square-foot concrete structure, had been used for retail, not livestock.

McKenzie also needs a permit to have more than five unrelated people living in a single-family home, said Harris.

"She's breaking the rules by using a building that she never obtained permits for or a certificate of occupancy for a change of use," she said.

The county cannot grant McKenzie a building permit until she complies with all the laws, she said.

"We are not debating that she's doing a good deed," said Harris. "But when you do a good deed, you've got to make sure you provide safety for these people."
Shelter evicts homeless for not following rules

By the Associated Press

Published November 23, 2004

SUFFOLK, Va. -- The 17 tenants of Suffolk's Shelter for the Homeless were evicted Tuesday after the director said they were not living up to the shelter's rules of behavior.

The evictions came one day before a planned one-day closing for Thanksgiving. They put out six women and their 11 children, and forced Suffolk officials to scramble to find a place for the evicted families to stay during the holidays.

"We didn't hear about it until today," said Leonard Horton, director of Suffolk's Department of Social Services, said Tuesday. "In a situation like this, our concern is with the children. We need to make sure they're safe."

The children range in age from 3 months to 16 years old.

This is the second time in five years that the shelter, which is privately owned, has evicted all of its tenants.

The tenants received eviction letters Monday, said Terry Miller, the shelter's executive director. They were first notified about the holiday closing Nov. 1 and were reminded about the closing last week, she said.

"We have heard zippo about anyone saying all of a sudden they didn't have anywhere to go until we told them they had to leave our premises," said Miller.

But Stavina Freeman, who was among those evicted, said she had told shelter officials she had no safety net.

City officials asked Miller on Tuesday afternoon to reconsider the expulsions, Horton said. But Miller said the women wore out their welcome when they became abusive last weekend.

"These people have consciously decided not to follow our rules, and we just can't take care of people who cannot or refuse to help take care of themselves."

The women claimed the evictions came without warning and were timed simply to let staffers at the shelter have a holiday.

City Social Services workers found lodging for the families at a hotel downtown.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Adopt-A-Homeless For Christmas

Remember as a child on Dec. 25th waking up bright eyed with excitement to rush to the Christmas tree in awe of Santa's kindness? Most of us, even as adults, still look forward to that moment of unwrapping of a gift from somebody special. Although we rarely notice them, there are people in Williamsburg that prefer for those holidays to rush by because they no longer experience Santa's kindness or don't have a special somebody: the homeless. Many don't qualify for local "Christmas Wish" programs due to lack of ID's or houses. Well, that changed last year! Now there is "Adopt-A-Homeless For Christmas" in Williamsburg. No ID's are required, just a need or a wish.

Here's how it works: starting Nov. 25th, a person who is homeless (including children) writes down their first name, age, and a wish ($50.00 or less). I post their information on my website www.thehomelessinwilliamsburg.blogspot.com And you choose a person from that list. You can email me or call 345-0880 with the name of the person you wish to adopt. Then before Dec. 23rd, bring your gift wrapped with a name tag to our home (or we can pick it up, if needed). On Dec. 23rd, we have our Christmas Celebration where we come together for dinner, carols and joyous greetings and thanks.

Join us and watch their eyes sparkle with a glint of tears of joy as they open their gifts. Please help to make Christmas a day to look forward to, not sleep through, for somebody who is homeless and forgotten in Williamsburg!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Good, The Bad & The Liar

Occasionally in life you meet people and categorize them as a nice person or a mean person, but rarely does one say "That person is a liar" when they first meet. Usually it isn't until you have had several encounters with a person who lies before one would think to categorize them as a liar (we just say "Oh they told a lie"). Even the people who are homeless type people as good or bad, just as they are typed (although people tend to type those who are homeless as bad, no matter what).

Shortly after school was out in June, a mother of 4 children came to me because he oldest son could not live with her. "He a good boy and just graduated high school but my landlord won't let him stay and his grandmother is too sick to take care of him at her house. Can he stay here?" We discussed it and it was only going to be for the summer because he had a scholarship for college in the Fall (he wanted to go into criminal justice). It's sad enough when an adult is homeless, but an 18 year old is worse. His mom dropped his stuff off and then took him to work. He seemed hard working as he had 2 jobs: Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

Over time we talked more about his scholarship and dreams of college. The money from work he was saving for school. The scholarship turned out to be a partial grant and he still needed $4500 by his first semester. We set out a coin jar and whenever we had extra change, it was dropped in for him. People who came for dinner or to hang out did the same. They thought "He has a chance so let's help". In August he found a less expensive school that had the same program and he only needed $600 extra for it. Although this school wasn't as good, it was a better solution to him. A few days later, the change jar came up missing. We were mad and this young man was sad because he lost at least $100+. So we started to rebuild the money.

Then one night after work, he came to me for help in regards to a vehicle. "It is going to be hard to get to work and school by taking the bus" he said. We had just been given a vehicle that needed a little bit of work I told him and would be picking it up shortly. "No I found a car, I just need help with a co-signer and down-payment" to this I replied "Do I look like a tree in the back yard with fruit of dollars hanging down? I'm sorry but we can't do that." He had already found an apartment with a friend and his mom was helping him get furniture for it since school would be starting soon...so we thought.

The next day was United Way's "Day of Caring". We had signed up for 5 projects and I had to get our homeless friends over to each project. The last one for transport, we needed some tools. I asked my husband where the ladder was in case we needed it at the project "It's in the jeep" he replied. I looked around and asked "Where's the jeep?" I thought he had moved it cuz of being in the way. Nope, it was stolen. Later I found out that the young man didn't go to work, but out of town to work on a project he was doing. He left at the same time my jeep was stolen. After I did the police report, I called him on his cell phone "Did you take my jeep?" "No I wouldn't do that! Look at how much you have helped me." "Well, you need to get back here and talk with the police. Whose car are you in right now?" quickly he replied "My friend's car he gave me a ride. But I can't talk to the police." OK, now I knew so I called his mom and we were on 3 way. She kept asking "Did you take their vehicle cuz I think you did!" Well, I haven't seen him since.

We have been constantly praying about the jeep and it's return because even though it was stolen, I still had to make the payments. While I was away in Indiana, Geoff called me and said "They found our jeep and it was 'T' who took it!" The Deputy called me and explained what happened, our jeep was in a towing storage in Williamsburg accruing daily. So far it was up to $750 in fees! The garage would not budge. When I came back, I had to start working on getting the jeep and finding out the whole story. So here are the facts of what happened (keep in mind when the jeep was stolen, the person who took it got the keys out of the drawer where we hide them):
*on Sept. 9th,
*the jeep was stolen around 2 am,
*'T' left to go out of town around 2 am the same day,
*on Sept. 19th 'T' was stopped in Surry for speeding, expired registration and no operators license, and he was in my jeep
*on Oct. 8th, 'T' was again pulled for stealing registration stickers for the jeep

At this point, because they couldn't find who owned the jeep (the VIN was never ran), the jeep went into a towing storage garage. A week later, the garage owner did an abandoned car title search to claim ownership. On the 25th of Oct. it came back that the jeep had been stolen. That's when they contacted us. The judge issued a warrant for Grand Theft Auto. Meanwhile, 'T' called me and asked if I pressed charges against him and I told him that I hadn't (actually the police did). Then he said "I didn't steal your jeep!" so I asked "Then why did you get stopped twice driving my jeep?" "Patti, I rented it from somebody in Williamsburg!" "Well, you better give the police their name but I don't believe you. It is a little odd that you lived with us, knew where the keys were, my jeep comes up missing the same time you leave and you are stopped twice driving my vehicle!" I called the deputy to let them know 'T' had called me and they sent somebody out to serve him with the warrant, but it was too late, he had left. Turns out he told the deputy when the jeep was impounded that his brother bought it for him (although one of his brothers is 16 and the other 13). Monday on the way to court, the deputy called me to let me know they had arrested 'T'. So I turned around and came home.

Back to the drawing board of getting my jeep out. The garage owner refused to let me have it without paying. So, the pressure was on. I called the newspapers and TV stations, the deputy, the clerk's office at court, the victim assistance program, our senator and delegate's offices. The deputy was a great help in assisting me as well as everyone else I called. Yesterday, the owner of the towing company called and said "I have a one time offer for you. Bring $455 to me by 5:30 today along with proof of registration and it is yours again. This vehicle has been such a pain and I have had so many people calling me, it isn't worth it." So then I had to jump! I had to get the $455, which a friend helped me out, and get to the DMV to get everything processed and back to the garage by 5:30. Finally, I have my car back but 'T' did a lot of damage to it. All of my husband's tools are gone, cell phones are missing, the back bumper is missing but prayerfully it will be resolved when we go to court.

The irony of all this is that I have to testify against a homeless person (nonetheless a 'child'). With all his lies, he is looking at 1-20 years when all he needed to do was just bring my jeep back and he could have gone on with his life. Although I am elated to have the jeep back, I still can't help but to feel bad for what road 'T' has chosen.