Help for homeless

Published 10:29 pm Monday, August 24, 2009

On Aug. 13, I was privileged enough to visit the Homeless Assist Day provided by the Western Tidewater Continuum of Care.

The event pulled together numerous resources from across the region, ranging from Social Services and health care to homeless shelters and employment support. Even such everyday needs as food, clothing and haircuts were supplied for free for more than 30 homeless families who came to the Suffolk National Guard Armory that day.

Organizers said the program accomplished its goal, connecting people in need with the services they needed.

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I also had the privilege to talk to Asia Moore, a young woman with three beautiful daughters who have been homeless for about two months now. Moore fled an abusive husband in Texas to come to Virginia, hoping her mother would help her when she got here.

Her mother, however, refused to help, so Moore was out on the street with only a 19-year-old car and her three children, all age 2 or younger.

The shelters have no room for her, Moore said. She gets money from selling things she finds on Craigslist, using a library computer to post the listings. She and another homeless friend sometimes are able to save enough money for a motel room, which is rare. She washes the children and herself in gas station bathrooms.

Through it all, though, Asia seemed very happy. She has to put on a happy face for her children, she said.

“I never thought I’d be in a situation like this, ever,” Asia told me. She’s been looking for a job, but it’s hard to find one without having an address to give to potential employers.

As I sat in a folding chair at the armory speaking with Asia (and almost crying), I was reminded of what many of us are afraid to admit — many of us are only one pink slip, one emergency or one bad decision away from being homeless ourselves.

Of course, many people have support systems in place — family, close friends — that we think will prevent us from sleeping on the streets. However, Asia thought she had a system in place, as well, and it let her down when she needed it most.

I urge everybody to guard against such a situation by saving money vigorously. Most financial advisors say everyone should have at least three months’ expenses in the bank, but in this economy, you might want to make it six months’ expenses. Just to be on the safe side.

And for those of you who are more well off than most, consider donating to an organization that helps provide shelter and health care for people who find themselves in unfortunate situations. I’m sure they will appreciate the help.