NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Homeless citizens on the Peninsula are receiving assistance through a network of volunteers and organizations as part of a winter shelters program.
A non-profit organization called LINK of Hampton Roads is coordinating this year's effort, PORT (People Offering Resources Together) Winter Shelter. This is PORT's 30th season.
According to LINK, the program spans 20 weeks. The season began November 3 and will end March 23.
Lynne Finding founded LINK 30 years ago, in part because she has experienced homelessness. "I was homeless when I was 15 and again at 25," Finding explained. “It touches my heart. Everybody who comes here has a story, and so often, we think there’s not a way out, and there is."
For the past week, First Baptist Church at 12716 Warwick Boulevard hosted visitors. On Monday, the church hosted 66 people, which is a record high according to organizers. Volunteers will host again Tuesday night, and then the service will move to another congregation.
The church served a hot dinner and take-out breakfast and provided a safe harbor for the homeless to sleep. It's one of more than 120 organizations or congregations that assist with the program.
"It’s a lot of planning. Also, coordinating the different volunteers from different groups," said Nikki Reid, executive assistant of First Baptist Church. "It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work."
The Newport News Sheriff’s Office is also assisting by providing security at the sites. They also take the bedding to the jail, daily, to be laundered. Last winter, inmates washed nearly 300 loads of laundry.
The NNSO says the program is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Congressional Research Service’s November 2020 report, the homeless are at increased risk of contracting and spreading the disease.
All ages are welcome at the shelter; however, the executive director of LINK says they find alternate housing for families with children under six years of age. A separate room is used for women and children. Guests do not need to sign up and no I.D. is required.
The shelter program starts at 6 p.m. and goes to 6 a.m. Organizers say that in the morning, buses arrive to take visitors to a day support center called Four Oaks, which is run through the City of Newport News.
COVID-19 screenings take place upon check-in. The City of Newport News has also provided air purification machines that will go from site to site.
LINK of Hampton Roads is a non-profit organization that strives to not only assist with shelter, but also with education, advocacy and other outreach programs. For more information and for a schedule of the shelter locations for 2021-2022, click here.
Anyone in need of assistance can also reach out to the non-profit organization.
You can access their website here.
Contact information for the organization is below.
LINK of Hampton Roads: