NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Having a place to live is something a lot of us may take for granted.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, almost 6,000 people experienced homelessness in Virginia in 2020.
Sister David Ann Niski said everyone deserves a place to call home.
“These are human beings. They have dignity and value," Niski said. “A lot of people think that the homeless are necessarily indolent. That's not the case. In many instances, people have lost jobs. You know, they've come upon hard times for whatever reason – excessive medical bills.”
Niski oversees operations at the Housing Development Corporation of Hampton Roads, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing for families who have difficulty finding a place to live.
“We wholeheartedly believe that everybody deserves the right to have a place to live," Niski said. “These are all individuals who are low-income level, or who were previously homeless, or have difficulty getting into other housing situations because of the fact that they might have severe mental illness, they have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.”
Nationwide, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development found more than 326,000 people experienced homelessness on at least one night in 2021. This figure only counts people who sought shelter, meaning there could be hundreds, if not thousands, more living on the street or in cars.
The Corporation relies entirely on donations and grants to buy homes for people to live in, but the rising cost of housing isn’t making things easier.
“Once upon a time, we could buy a little two-bedroom house for $75,000. Now, we can't find anything on the market," Niski said. “We'd love to buy homes that are move-in ready but they're more expensive."
The Corporation has helped dozens of families in Newport News and Hampton get back on their feet. The nonprofit owns an apartment building, a duplex, and 15 single-family homes. Now, they’re trying to buy one more so they can help another family.
“That's why the money from Give Local 757 will be a big help for us. To be able to get that 16th house," Niski said.
She said everyone deserves the opportunity to feel safe and secure, and everyone has a right to have a place to call home.