NORFOLK, Va. - Normally the Day Center at Union Ministries on a sweltering summer day is full. Those without shelter are usually there cooling off enjoying a hot meal and a cold drink.
"Our role here since 1892 is to serve those who are most vulnerable on the streets," said John Gray, Executive Director of Union Ministries in Norfolk.
For the first time in more than 120 years, the Day Center is empty, another unexpected consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Day Center allowed people to get off the streets, they could also eat get out of the heat, speak with case managers get laundry done and other vital services," said Gray.
So that leaves more homeless people in Hampton Roads endangered and out on the streets in these oppressive temperatures, who would normally rely on the center for air conditioning access.
"The heat affects everyone but especially those that are more vulnerable and those who spend time on streets at bus stops, and those who have compromised health," said Gray.
To help the homeless during shelter closures, Norfolk has opened cooling centers to allow those living streets to come in for free water and a chance to cool down.
Gray says another simple way you can help the homeless is by keeping made up kits in your car filled with socks to snacks to hygiene products, and bottled water.
"When you give someone something like that in these conditions and you might save their lives," he said.