Homelessness not as foreign as some may think

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

Many of you are merely a paycheck away from being homeless.

I’ll never forget that statement made by a Franklin pastor approximately four years ago. I don’t recall the gist of the minister’s sermon, but that proclamation has forever resonated with me. I was reminded of the minister’s comments while on an interview for the homeless feature we published last Sunday.

As I interviewed Nikki Holloman and Anthony Beamon, both of whom are homeless, I couldn’t help but sympathize with them. Due to circumstances that literally could happen to almost anyone, these people and many others throughout the region find themselves without a place to call home.

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It’s easy to simply associate homelessness with scenes commonplace on television showing vagrants sleeping on sidewalks and living out of vehicles. But homelessness strikes closer to home than many of us realize.

For Beamon, getting behind on utility payments meant the loss of his Section 8 voucher. The federal program provides badly needed rental assistance, and residents only pay a portion of the cost based on their income. Beamon has been living in Newport News, apart from his twin boys until he can find a roof for them all. It’s not the stereotypical definition of homelessness, but the fact remains that Beamon does not have a place his family can call home.

For Holloman, pregnant with her first child, her inability to work a job requiring heavy lifting is contributing to her dire straits. Now somewhat visibly pregnant, Holloman is having a hard time getting a job. Basically, as she put it, her future is uncertain.

Terry Miller, executive director of the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless, said the city’s homeless problem is not as bad as some would think.

But Miller and other city officials have determined that the issue is one that merits a meeting of the minds. Talks now involve pursuing transitional housing alternatives for residents who are &uot;in between&uot; housing.

This is a good thing. As we all can learn from Beamon and Holloman, becoming homeless is not as remote as one would think. No one is immune to becoming homeless. Sudden illness, unemployment, and divorce can easily push people into this state.

As talks continue around government and community roundtables, we must insist as a society that talk is followed up with action.

After all, homelessness could happen to you.

Luefras Robinson is the managing editor of the News-Herald. Reach her at 934-9613 or send e-mails to luefras.robinson@suffolknewsherald.com