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 25, 2005


Wow, I didn't think this years Thanksgiving would end up being so big and go so smoothly, other than the few bumps in the beginning. As you read earlier, my morning didn't start off very well when my Grand Am was stolen from our driveway at 3:00AM! And compounded with the fact I have been sick all week, I thought the day would drag on, but it didn't. Since we only had the one other vehicle, my husband ran both of our newspaper routes while I stayed home and cooked, as I waited for the police to show up for the stolen car report. By 6:00AM I was wearing down, with still a lot to do. I hadn't moved the furniture around yest to make room for the tables, I killed my can opener opening 120+ cans and still had 40 to go and nobody in my neighborhood was up that I could tell (for me to borrow a can opener.) People were calling in late for dinner and some couldn't make it, but that was fine. I just kept on cooking and cleaning.John and Becki were the first to arrive (actually Becki came early to help me and then her friend, John showed up shortly after.)Rebecca and David were the first to arrive and immediately we all went to work. My husband showed up a little later, tired from the route and went to WUMC to start picking up 200 meals that were donated. It took several vehicles, because the had more than they planned.

Finally around 1:30PM we were able to sit down for dinner (which we were running behind.) Then Wanda made it just in time to eat (she was stuck in traffic for hours.) In between eating, Becki and I would get up to distribute meals and hotel lists to those who came to drop off food to the people in the Williamsburg motels. By 3:00PM we were out of meals and had to start boxing more. We packaged up another 112 meals, which I was thrown out of my kitchen cuz I kept messing up 'the flow' (lol, I needed to just relax.) The last of the 60+ packaged meals went out to the Family Inn and Rodeway Motel and then we made large roasting pans for Joe and his friends out into the woods. Becki, David, Wanda and John distributed those. It didn't take me more than seconds to hop into my pj's and then of course Wanda had to take a picture (lol!) I was asleep by 5:09PM.

In total, 312 packaged meals were distributed along with an estimated 20 meals for the woods. I just received an email from Becki that not all the meals were given at one of the motels so she and David took them to Newport News and distributed them there. All in all it was a GREAT THANKSGIVING WITH SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR, even if now we do have to find a way to get another vehicle for our newspaper route (maybe somebody will donate an automatic to us since we can't run my routes with just one vehicle without being pentalized monitarily.)

**Now it is time to prepare for our "Adopt-a-Homeless for Christmas" program which starts this weekend. I will be posting names, ages and Christmas wishes this weekend on my website. Then Dec. 23rd we do a Christmas dinner and gifts are distributed.**

When we got up to run my newspaper routes, Geoff went out to start my Grand AM. The security on it has been having a problem, so he left the keys in it to disbale the security on it (something like that based on troubleshooting in the manual.) He came back in for a few minutes and when I was ready to leave, he asked me, "Where did you move the car to?" "What are you talking about, I didn't move the car!" Well, my Grand AM was stolen within minutes from our driveway! Talk about a way to start Thanksgiving morning!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

So many people's eyes were opened Sat. during the tour that many came away with tears in their eyes. The reality tour was such a success on Sat. that we have been requested to run an "instant replay" tour for this weekend. There were several people who were unable to attend so we will be meeting once again at W&M Stadium, up toward the Alumni House on Sun. 20th at 1:00 PM.

Email at wsmburghomeless@yahoo.com, if you are interested in attending!
The beginning started with many complications! I knew that W&M was having a football game, but typically they are early morning games. Sat. afternoon it was schedule for 1:00PM. So, we changed the meeting place to Merchant Square. Well, so many people were out shopping, that parking was not to be found. Once we were able to get in the cars and start the tour, things started to slow down and get back on schedule. I had a 2 way radio in each vehicle and narrated as we drove to each stopping point. This was great in allowing us to see different places, without stopping.

Dumpster diving was the bomb. Before I could even start talking about dumpster diving, people already had their gloves on and many were in the dumpsters! The girls kinda freaked when Geoff and Alex pulled a deer out from the dumpster. People were amazed to see how much good food came out of it. Then we stopped over on the other side of the woods to deliver a couple of sleeping bags and some Virginia Gazettes (which is how the homeless here stay connected with what is going on). The little community that is built shocked everyone. Many want to go back to take more supplies.

After visiting several other places, we made our way to our old home in Lightfoot. Most of the students on the tour did not know me when we had a place to live, but met me in the motel. I tell you one thing, the outside of the place was a mess! It was sad to see it, yet we had great memories there.

Our 2nd to last stop was under the By-Pass bridge. I think this was the most shocking because by the time we arrived, it was getting dark, so they could see what people go through who sleep in the rafters in the pitch dark with the train speeding past several times throughout the night. And then we headed toward the Tioga Motel, which is now official closed and sold. We had a small Q&A time and then we all made our way home.

I wonder how they felt, what went through their minds as they ate dinner, how they slept that night in their warm beds and if they cried while they were taking their warm shower the next morning? Only time will tell.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Homeless likely to surpass 120
Nov. 9, 2005
By Bill Tolbert
Virginia Gazette

WILLIAMSBURG — Homelessness is on the rise, and it’s hard to stereotype. They tend to gravitate to bus stations.
Peter Walentisch, the city’s human services director, is a member of a task force charged by the Peninsula mayors and chairs to gather data. He presented an overview Monday to City Council, and a formal report from the task force should be issued next month to guide localities.
City workers helped 119 people in 2004 in four primary areas. Staff has worked with 77 people this year, and Walentisch said that number is expected to grow through the holidays, surpassing last year.
“Today many of the working poor who live from paycheck to paycheck may need only one more well-placed crisis to bring their ‘house of cards’ down,” Walentisch said. “A well-coordinated system of service and care in each community is critical to keeping such families intact and, particularly, to prevent vulnerable children from falling through the cracks.”
Walentisch said the profile of homelessness “does not reflect any one type of individual or circumstance, but rather a collection of different causes.” He did identify three categories.
Local residents –– People living in apartments, motels, trailers or homes who “are facing a life crisis” because of loss of job, accident or injury, illness, breakup in a relationship, mental health or substance abuse issue or disability.
Transients –– Those who arrive here by bus, train or car and have no identifiable housing or way to get around. This tends to happen more in localities that have transportation centers, such as the city, Walentisch said. His department has assisted people from as far away as Maine and Florida.
Because of the location of the Transportation Center next door to the Municipal Building, the Human Services Department serves as a regional Travelers Aid.
Institutional discharges –– People who get out of jail, mental health institutions or other facilities and may not have a short-term after-care program or temporary housing. They must quickly find permanent housing and work.
“More often than not, this is a formidable task,” Walentisch told council, “which many individuals are not able to handle and, as a result, there is a high recividism rate back into these institutions.”
Walentisch said public and private agencies turn to motel rooms and efficiencies.
“A number of local motel operators have discounted their rates to assist individuals referred by city human services and other service providers,” he said. “This public-private partnership has allowed each individual or family to have an individualized service and community wraparound plan tailored to their needs, on a case-by-case basis, which has been effective in many instances.”
Other sheltering resources include Avalon for domestic violence victims, Salvation Army, Vibrant Life Ministries and Colonial Services Board.
Walentisch also laid out the barriers faced by those at risk of becoming homeless.
Rents –– Apartments run $700-$750, with at least $1,500-$2,000 needed upfront to cover deposits, rent and related costs.
Motels –– Cheapest available rates found by agencies are about $40 per night, or $280 a week. “There is no way to save enough money for a security deposit or the first month’s rent, even at this rate,” he said.
No benefits –– At $7.50 an hour, a worker would earn $15,600, with take-home pay of less than $14,000 a year that preclude health insurance.
Child care –– The average here is $135-$150 a week for infants and toddlers. For 52 weeks a year, a mother with child would pay about $7,000. A second child, even at a discounted rate of 50%, would bring total child-care costs to more than $10,000 a year. Walentisch suggested a regional plan to develop graduated levels of care across the Peninsula that would include shelters, halfway houses, transitional living, supervised apartments, shared apartments, and affordable or subsidized housing.
The city has 104 public housing units, 38 of which are in the Blayton House, which serves as low-income independent-living units for the elderly and disabled. Also in the city are affordable apartments in the Merrimac Trail area.
Walentisch suggested any regional plan also should dovetail with the Salvation Army and other faith-based operations with shelter experience. Localities also should review existing zoning ordinances “to assist qualified shelter programs to get started.”
Localities are often loathe to set up shelters for fear of attracting more homeless people from outside the community.
“Public and private agencies have been working together extraordinarily well. But the rapid pace of change, the cost of living, and the changing face of the community is bringing with it new challenges.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I am so excited for the reality tour. Last year I did it and we had a good turn out, but this year we have so much more to add to it. So many motels have closed which is forcing people into the higher priced tourist motels. Also, this year we will ending the tour with an hour of dumpster diving. YUM YUM!

Williamsburgs Homeless & Indigent presents it's 2nd annual "Homeless Reality Tour" . Find out where many of the homeless sleep, eat and the problems they face living in a high cost tourist area. Those interested, please confirm by emailing Patti McKenzie at wsmburghomeless@yahoo.com We will meet at the W&M Stadium parking lot Nov. 12th at 3:00 PM. The tour will last approximately 3 hours. We will help with transportation. You must wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, socks and comfortable walking shoes. Also, your tetanus shot must be current! A $2.00 charge is required for the tour. Confirmations are a must!
Attacks fulfill prophecy
Published November 9, 2005

I have often taken umbrage to the vituperative attacks of the left on the extreme conservative Christian right wing. This week, however, I had to smile wryly because it dawned upon me that, despite their best efforts to denigrate us and our God, these people are simply fulfilling a prophecy that Jesus made in His Sermon on the Mount.

It is from this sermon that we get the divine instruction that has become a catch phrase in our generation: Turn the other cheek. What most people don't realize is that this order comes immediately after Jesus said, and I paraphrase,
Don't be surprised if the world hates you, because it hated me first. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. If someone hits you, turn the other cheek.

So, when we are hated and abused and people seek to disabuse us of our constitutional rights to freedom of religion or speech, they are only doing what God said they would do.

Yet on many issues, we aren't that far apart:

1. We don't believe in torturing prisoners or committing murder. Humans are made in the image of God, and the Bible indicates that we should respect that image. Of course, that also means that we don't believe in snuffing out the lives of unborn children. So, on that we differ.

2. We don't believe in being cruel to animals. The Scripture tells us that it is an evil man who is cruel to his animals. We don't even believe in abusing the environment. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, I can assure you that it disturbs me greatly to see our trees in greater Williamsburg being cut down just to build more overpriced houses for the wealthy. Where will the deer and the turkeys go? How will this clear-cutting affect runoff into our lakes and streams?

3. We don't believe in charging exorbitant interest. Hebrew law makes it clear that usury is wrong.

4. We don't believe in getting rich on the backs of the poor:

These are not left wing or Democratic ideals. They are Judeo-Christian principles, though too many Christians neglect to follow them.

On a political note, it was Republicans, not Democrats, who listened to the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and passed the laws regarding affirmative action and equal opportunity for racial minorities. It is we who want the poor and minorities to be educated and to succeed in life, rather than living in the squalor afforded by meager welfare checks.

Yes, we believe in giving tax breaks to the wealthy, but only so they can afford to reinvest in the economy by forming more businesses and offering more jobs to the poor, thus providing more opportunity for self-betterment.

We got the idea from John F. Kennedy, the Democrats' finest president. It's neither voodoo economics nor Reaganomics. It's Kennedy economics. The tax base increased and, consequently, so did the revenue gathered by the IRS. It's free enterprise. It worked then, and it will work now.

So, slow down and think. Take time to get to know us.
We extreme right wing conservative Christians are not scary, and neither are our beliefs. We are all about love, compassion, fairness, and taking care of the poor.

And even if you continue to verbally abuse us, we will only pray for you and vote more, which in some way makes all the vilification of our ilk rather ironic, doesn't it?
Geoff McKenzie