Portsmouth nonprofit to host distribution event for homeless members of the community

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Posted at 2:57 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 18:02:20-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Organizers and volunteers are preparing for a large distribution for the most vulnerable in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless provides many services.

“Our services are for individuals who are literally homeless,” said Dr. Darlene Sparks Washington, Executive Director for Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless, Inc. “That would be sleeping outdoors in places that are not meant for human habitation.”

The organization provides a service center where those without a home can come and do laundry, shower, receive counseling and even get assistance with a job search. They are individuals dealing with barriers that some may not understand.

“We celebrate everything: ‘I got my birth certificate today.’ Yay! ‘I got my social security card. It came in the mail.’ Yay! ‘I have an appointment at the DMV to get my ID,’” said Dr. Sparks Washington.

A couple of years ago, they noticed a disturbing trend: More people in their “Golden Years” living on the streets. Men or women who often don’t share their plight with family members.

“They have medical issues that caused them to lose their home; financial issues; the death of a spouse. And so, we’re seeing people 55 or older who have nowhere to lay their heads at night, and that’s just heartbreaking,” Dr. Sparks Washington added.

In the past, Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless worked with many area churches that would open their doors to serve as a shelter for a week at a time. However, COVID-19 restrictions have forced a change. Now, the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office is providing a location for an emergency shelter.

Local church organizations are still providing help in other ways. There’s an initiative called Adopt-a-Week where volunteers provide dinners and perhaps other needed items for people who are homeless. There are openings in April for any groups who may want to help.

This Saturday, there is a community feeding and essentials distribution event. It’s for those experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable members of the community. That information is below:

Saturday, March 13, 12-2 p.m.
Third Baptist Church
461 Godwin St., Portsmouth, Va. 23704
Masks will be required

If you wish to donate, organizers ask that you kindly keep in mind that these items will likely be carried around, so they must be travel-friendly.

“We always say that when you think of a homeless individual in our community, they are either carrying everything that they own on their backs or they have it stashed somewhere,” explained Sparks Washington. “It’s very important that if they’re stashing it somewhere that it’s discreet, and so they aren’t going to be able to carry around large, heavy blankets or a lot of toiletry items.”

Related: Local groups make progress on tiny homes for the homeless

Donations can be dropped off Saturday, March 13 between 11 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. outside the Third Baptist Church at 461 Godwin Street.

Some requested items include:

  • travel hand sanitizers
  • face masks
  • non-perishable and individually-packed snacks
  • sleeping bags
  • foil thermal blankets

If you or someone you know is in need of housing, call the Housing Crisis Hotline at 757-966-2107.