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Hotline center at forefront of growing housing crisis in Hampton Roads

Affordable housing advocates are sounding the alarm about a growing problem in Hampton Roads. ForKids says a record number of people are calling for help.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Affordable housing advocates are sounding the alarm about a growing problem in Hampton Roads.

A Chesapeake-based non-profit group says it’s getting a record number of calls from people facing housing crisis, and the cries for help aren't slowing down.

ForKids aims to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty throughout Hampton Roads. The organization serves thousands of people experiencing a housing crisis in the Southeastern Virginia region.

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Right now, the phone lines at ForKids are ringing off the hook with people in need of keeping a roof over their heads. 

“This is not the regular timing to have a surge. Let alone a surge that has lasted for months," said Shirley Brackett, the crisis response director for ForKids.

Bracket said the organization saw 600 phone calls just on Tuesday, "more than a busy Monday in the summer last year."

In September, crisis hotline workers here answered more than 7,000 calls for help – more than any month since the hotline over a decade ago. 

Brackett said that includes during the pandemic.

“We have people calling about all kinds of things," she said. 

According to the organization, nearly a quarter (24%) of callers sought emergency shelter. More than 30 percent faced evictions (32%) or fell behind on their utilities (30%).

“Just because of having to make difficult choices between groceries and their increased rent," said Brackett. 

"Right now, it very much feels unmanageable and there’s no end in sight," said Thaler McCormick, CEO of ForKids. 

The organization started 35 years ago, as a small shelter in Norfolk, and now services the entire Hampton Roads region in a larger, new facility in Historic South Norfolk. 

According to McCormick, they receive the most calls from Norfolk residents, but all cities are experiencing high call volume. For example, the hotline answered nearly 150 calls from Williamsburg in September, she said. 

“We really do have a perfect storm with the end of the eviction moratorium, skyrocketing housing costs, and just the overall lack of affordable housing," McCormick said. 

High inflation doesn’t help either.

In the past, Brackett said call volumes dipped during certain parts of the year, but this surge has lasted for months.

“Most of these are folks who have been working. They have been making attempts on their bills," said Brackett.

“It’s going to be tough for a very long time if we don’t begin to get some regional action," said McCormick. 

McCormick said work must be done to address affordable housing and evictions, including more rental assistance and proactive measures, especially for people living on a low income.

People experiencing a housing crisis or who want to learn more about ForKids, can click here or call (757) 622-6400.

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