HAMPTON, Va. - If you look around, you will find stories of heartache in our hometown.
"Can you imagine needing to go into dialysis because you have a kidney disorder but you can't get a port placed in your arm because you don't have stable housing and you're the single father of two teenage boys?" asked Kecia St. Clair, the Founder and Executive Director of The Ezer Initiative. "Can you imagine coming out of an abusive relationship or having served your country and only having a certain portion of service-related disability income?"
These are the stories of people living in Hampton Roads and their lives are on the line.
When homeless shelters in Hampton and Newport News closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the state stepped in to help individuals who qualified as vulnerable by CDC guidelines.
Cities received federal funding, which they used in-part to pay for qualifying families to stay in local hotels.
Organizations like The Ezer Initiative then offered to provide other services that Hampton and Newport News were unable to cover. The community organization bridges the gap between resources and people in need and provides emergency services for people that get into housing or food crisis after hours or on weekends.
"Each day we go out and we provide three meals a day, hygiene items [and] cleaning supplies. We provide advocacy and case management facilitation that needs to be done. We have to show up we have to pick up food we have to pack food we have to pass food out," St. Clair said.
While people have a place to stay for now, long-term funding to keep them there isn't guaranteed. In fact, Hampton and Newport News have had to make short-term adjustments multiple times in April.
"There have been periodic allotments, at one point [our clients] received a notice that [they] would need to vacate the following day and at that point we just - I had a fresh breaking in my heart for people thinking that they would have to be facing any sort of housing insecurity in the midst of a heat wave and a pandemic," St. Clair said.
As of this week they secured enough money to house 62 men, women and children in Hampton and Newport News for another month.
St. Clair said this will give them time for additional planning in order to create strategies to transition people that are able to be transitioned at this point.
The Ezer Initative will also collaborate with the cities and other partners for long-term solutions.
"I think we're all just trying to figure out the best way to sort the money in the limited amount of time that we all have to try to get people moving in the right direction," she said.
St. Clair also believes there is a stigma that comes with the word "homeless." She said the clients that the Ezer Initiative helps are people trying to make change in their lives.
She said many have physical or mental health issues that prevent them from working or are single-parents with low-income jobs. The Ezer Initiative is able to step up and help them in a time of temporary crisis with housing, food and support.
"[We can make it through this] as long as we continue to give our unwavering 'yes' and come up with partnerships and potential proposals to be part of the change instead of complaining about the problem," St. Clair said.
St. Clair said they are always looking for volunteers to help sort and deliver food, clean rooms and provide emotional support.
If you're interested in providing physical or monetary assistance click here. You can also call (757) 317-0200 or email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.