NORFOLK, Va. - The COVID-19 pandemic escalated the homelessness problem in Hampton Roads. The number of people without shelter surged, especially in Norfolk.
The City of Norfolk is working to combat the issue, beginning by transforming the old Greyhound bus station into a shelter. For the past five months, "The Center," as it's called, has been the much-needed stopgap for the record number of homeless people in Norfolk.
The lot contains 55 tents to help bring people off the streets, providing food, resources and most importantly, shelter.
"We began to see a lot more individuals that lost their homes due to COVID-19 or other issues," said Katrinia Freeman with Keep Virginia Warm.
Since December 2020, Freeman has been working with the city to help those in need.
"The city can only do so much. We are better when we work together," she said.
She will continue to help as the city begins to move those in need to the Budget Motel on Tidewater Drive.
"They can assist more people there than at the bus station. More people can receive resources and come off the street," Freeman said.
The city paid $140,000 to lease this space, and they will convert the 72 rooms to a shelter with two people per room. The motel will open to occupants in mid-October.
"You drive past in your car and you see people on the ground," Freeman said of the old bus lot. "For them to be somewhere safe, it's so exciting."
The city will lease the property and has plans to buy it in January 2022. It will also offer case managers and peer support to the tenants seeking shelter.