Charlottesville has a pretty solid net underneath the homeless community - with a lot of support - but now some of the agencies doing that good work are in need themselves.
Retailers were the first to complain about fewer weeks this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but other organizations in central Virginia are suffering too, like charities that rely on holiday donations.
Ringing bells are a familiar sound of the season, in part because they signal a longstanding fundraising campaign for the Salvation Army, but this year that effort was cut short. Charlottesville's Salvation Army says it lost more than $10,000 because there were four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas instead of five. Last year the organization collected about $90,000 from its local red kettle campaign. This year it estimates collecting only about $79,900.
That's a big difference for people in need. John Erwin of the Salvation Army says, “We do not charge so all this money comes in and goes right back out serving the community. They go to food, shelter, clothing, about every kind of human need you can imagine that money goes to those services.”
The Haven, which provides services to the homeless, says there hasn't been a noticeable dip in donations, their funding remained about the same as last year, but it says funding needs are changing. Stephen Hitchcock, the director of The Haven, says there is an even bigger challenge to funding that many shelters may soon face.
“It is just very different dealing with someone who is chronically homeless than someone who is entering into homelessness as a young person,” he stated. “The changing nature of the demographic that people don't know - families and youth aging out of foster care - that's a new face for homelessness.”
Hitchcock says Haven guests increasingly work several jobs but those jobs don’t help them make ends meet.
Because of the low-wage job market and the shortened holiday fundraising season both The Haven and the Salvation Army are in need of donations.