It is very hard for us not to feel a bit sad or ashamed when we fail to acknowledge a homeless person on a corner sleeping, or begging for money. Our primary instinct is to simply give them what they want.
Some of us, instead, will give them food, water or clothes. Before joining HomeAgain, I assumed that the people I saw begging on the street did not have a place to go. I was unaware of the number of shelters and housing programs available. I am sure, that like me, others had no idea either.
A lot of the times, people struggle with assisting someone who is homeless because of the stigma associated with it. Others might believe people choose to live this way, but that is not a 100% true. Years of living on the streets can distort an individual’s perspective, making it less likely for them to engage with health professionals or housing agencies. Substance abuse and long-term disabilities are common in our chronically homeless population, and supportive services are not always within their reach.
Here at HomeAgain, together with our community partners, we try to change that reality. However, we are only one piece of this puzzle. We need the support of our government and law-enforcement agencies, as well as faith-based communities, private businesses and volunteers, people just like you!
There are so many ways you can help us end homelessness. One of them is to educate yourself and your community on the services readily available to the homeless population. Our Continuum of Care is a network of health service providers and housing agencies geared towards assessing and assisting anyone who comes through our Homeless Point of Entry (HPE) and suffers from “literal homelessness.”* From there, a homeless person (or family) will get connected with case managers and various housing options depending on their needs.
Aside from providing shelter, HomeAgain offers rapid re-housing and permanent supporting housing interventions. Rapid re-housing combines intensive case management and some rental assistance to help build a much-needed stability for our clients , while permanent supportive housing is a long-term approach, offering case management and leasing dollars to help clients who suffer from a long-term disability and chronic homelessness.*
Another way you can help is by volunteering with an agency. Our shelters are in constant need of new and unused twin bedding, pillows and towels. You can also volunteer your time, our shelter have many volunteer opportunities!
If you want to do more- Community groups are always welcome to help us do “heavy-duty” work, from landscaping, to organizing and sanitizing rooms, you only need to ask.
Overall, if you see someone on the street, do not assume they’ll be better off with money, maybe ask them their name, see if they have already reached out to us and know about our services. A bus pass to help them get where they need to go can also help them get to a shelter safely.
Our effort extends beyond our shelters, as our amazing case managers and the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care’s housing team, work with folks in the community. Even if an individual is not in a shelter, anyone who suffers from literal homelessness can still receive assistance towards being housed. The only way of knowing is to ask.
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, call 2-1- 1 or Homeless Point of Entry at: 804.648.4177.
Send us a message through our online portal to learn more about our programs and volunteering! firstname.lastname@example.org
**Literally Homeless: Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning: (i) Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation; (ii) Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state and local government programs); or (iii) Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.
**Chronically homeless: Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's new definition, a chronically homeless individual is someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months), and has a disability.