WARM to provide motel shelter through the spring, finds success with housing-focus

WARM to provide motel shelter through the spring, finds success with housing-focus

SHENANDOAH VALLEY, Va. (WVIR) - A coordinated effort to get a roof over the heads of the homeless in the Shenandoah Valley is seeing success moving to a housing-focus. More people are finding permanent housing, even in the middle of a global crisis.

The Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry (WARM) has been providing a safe place for people to shelter since the start of the pandemic. Newfound stability in that program is allowing WARM to focus on bigger goals.

“You cannot start any forward-moving step if you have to worry about where you’re sleeping that night, or how you’re gonna stay warm,” said WARM Executive Director Debra Freeman-Belle.

WARM now has the support it needs to safely shelter area homeless in motel rooms through the spring.

Freeman-Belle says staying in the churches would have been limiting. “It was not gonna be feasible with the COVID precautions and the church spaces and our permit requirements to operate and so there would have been nights that we would have only been able to serve 10 people.”

CARES Act funding from the city of Waynesboro and money from the Department of Housing and Community Development will allow them to keep a 40-bed-capacity through April. It also gives them the footing to focus on much more than a bed and a meal.

“We want to serve people where we find them, but we don’t want to leave them where we find them,” stated Freeman-Belle.

A little more than a year ago area agencies rebranded their efforts as the Valley Homeless Connection and got busy working to lift people out of homelessness.

“I was excited when we had 25%,” said Freeman-Belle.

Since April 13, the Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry has served 138 individuals at the motel shelter and 62% have moved into permanent housing, or are on their way to it. WARM and its partners provide three meals a day, snacks, and personal protective equipment to shelter guests.

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