HAMPTON, Va. — Virginians have been ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But what about those who don’t have a home to stay in?
Matthew Stearn is the executive director of Hampton Roads Ecumenical Lodgings & Provisions, Inc., also known as HELP.
For nearly 40 years, the Hampton nonprofit has provided shelter, housing, food, financial assistance, healthcare and dental care to those in need.
“They’re using public facilities and public buildings to do things as simple as using the restroom. So, if all of your public buildings are closed, where do folks go to even relieve themselves during the day?” Stearn asked. “We’re talking about people who can really be very vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus and exchanging it with the folks they interact with on a daily basis.”
Stearn says on average, HELP’s day support programs alone provide 600-800 different services to about 150 unique clients per month, and recently those numbers have jumped significantly.
However, COVID-19 has forced some of its other services to shut down.
“We also run Hampton’s only charitable clinic,” Stearn said. “That particular practice exists within the Hampton Social Services Building which, since it’s a public building, is closed off to the public.“
HELP has been able to modify some its other services and keep them active.
Operating on an adjusted schedule, the Day Center is now equipped with mobile showers and toilets. Carry-out lunch is still being offered twice a week, and its food pantry has become a delivery service.
“People who have less access to a grocery store, people who are of a vulnerable population or who are older— don’t wanna go out,” Stearn said. “They’re leaning on folks like us and for other food pantries in the area... We make sure that folks are still getting the resources that they need."
Yet, the need has continued to rise. HELP is asking for help to continue serving the community during the crisis.
“If everybody in Hampton Roads would consider giving even the minimum, say around ten dollars... we’re talking millions of dollars that could come back into the nonprofit community,” Stearn said. “In a time like this, it’s really important that the community knows that we need their generosity and we need their care to continue to provide the services that we do.”
For more information about HELP, visit its website or check out the organization's Facebook page.
More than 200 other local nonprofits need your support as part of 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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