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 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.”


  • At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Cheng said…

    This is a very detailed report on current homeless situation in Williamsburg VA ...

    One way to solve the problem is to relocate homeless to other towns where rental is much cheaper such as Roanoke VA or Hazleton PA ...

    Julie at Roanoke rented 3br house for single mom with 3 kids cost only $475 a month...

    Eddie and Kathy rented a furnished room at Hazleton PA for only $170 a month. Why holding people homeless in tourist area like Williamsburg VA?

    Homeless problems can be easily resolved if officials listen to Homeless Solutions.

  • At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Let me just say that I came here for some help from the only family I have left, my sister which is active duty military, I came from Pensacola. We were also hit by 3 storms back to back. We didn't get the outcry for help as did New Orleans. The 3 storms severely damaged Pensacola's economy. I am a single mother of two Children, as well as a full time College student. I worked for th government state and federal, at the time of these disasters, while i am technically homeless, I have hope. I am just relieved to be out of Pensacola, Fl. If you ahve any helpful suggestions, please E-mail me at stessijill@yahoo.com.

    Thank You and Season's Greeting's


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