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New resource available for city homeless this winter

The homeless and Suffolk have a new resource to take advantage of this winter, even though COVID-19 makes the process look a bit different.

The Planning Council is an organization that links people needing a variety of human services to providers, government agencies, non-profits, corporations and other organizations, all working to improve quality of life. This organization is starting a winter shelter for the homeless in Suffolk beginning Nov. 16. This shelter will be at a local hotel, giving the participants separate rooms to stay safe from both the weather and COVID-19.

“This also allows them to stay inside during the daytime too,” said Cheryl Griffin, the Suffolk hotel shelter coordinator for The Planning Council. “As long as they follow the guidelines, they can stay as long as they need.”

Usually, in the winter, the Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk hosts its Night Stay program. Churches rotate, opening their doors and providing meals for those who need shelter during the cold nights. But due to the pandemic and the resulting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrictions against congregating in shelters, Suffolk needed an alternative to CAPS’ Night Stay program.

The Planning Council secured money from the federal and local CARES Act to pay for those who are homeless to stay in the hotel through March and hopefully mid-April. A hotel has been secured, but for confidentiality, it will not be publicly announced. This is for singles only who are homeless. Families can receive shelter at ForKids.

CAPS will still be involved as churches volunteer to provide contactless meals at the hotels. The hope is also to bring in medical teams that can give COVID-19 testing and flu shots. People can also volunteer to help with job applications, resumes and other services to help individuals acquire permanent housing.

“We want to bring as many services as we can to the hotel to prevent possible exposure,” said Griffin.

Homeless citizens who would like to participate can call the homeless hotline at 757-587-4202 or the toll-free 1-866-750-4431. This hotline will set everything up to take part in this winter shelter. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Cheryl Griffin at 757-304-2883 or wintershelter@theplanningcouncil.org. Churches that would like to provide food can contact CAPS at 757-286-9126 or nightstay@capsuffolk.org.