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."

Friday, November 26, 2004

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.


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