WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — During the coronavirus pandemic, many people are sheltering in place. But there’s no "staying home" for people who don’t have one.
Shannon Woloszynowski is the executive director of the Williamsburg House of Mercy, a care center for the homeless.
“One of the biggest challenges we saw early on was just the ability [for the homeless] to stay clean, to shower, to have access to hand-washing facilities,” Woloszynowski said.
In the first 30 days of its COVID-19 response, the organization served more than 6,000 people - some days, seeing 20 times more families than normal.
“Between 68 and 70 percent of our clients are brand new to us, brand-new to having to request help and request services,” Woloszynowski said.
During the crisis, the group is running a drive-through food pantry, and it's distributing more than four times the normal number of meals through its Weekday Community Kitchen carryout program. It's also operating a modified version of its housing services.
“We're having an easier time, I would say, getting folks to accept housing that were on the fence before,” Woloszynowski said. “We're still re-housing the homeless at a rate of between two and three move-ins a week.”
The Williamsburg House of Mercy is asking for financial support, food donations and volunteers.
“For the homeless to be able to come in and get a warm shower, have an opportunity to get something to eat, get breakfast and lunch, start to work with people on housing - this is your on-site outreach center,” said Woloszynowski.
The pandemic impacted business as usual at the Williamsburg House of Mercy, the group hasn't stopped helping its neighbors in need.
"'Mercy' is what we do. We say 'mercy' is a verb,” Woloszynowski explained. “We are all at our best, as a community, when we're caring for one another.”
For more information about the Williamsburg House of Mercy, visit its website. You can also check out the group on Facebook and Instagram.
More than 200 other local nonprofits are seeking support through the Give Local 757 initiative to spark local philanthropy. By donating, you’ll help them continue to help the community recover from this crisis.
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