Warm Bodies and Warm Hearts

Taylor Caskey

As the holiday season nears, the New River Valley area is often met with a cold front. With temperatures dropping below freezing, the homeless community in the area struggle to find warmth. This is why many local churches band together to provide these individuals with the support they need.

            For their tenth season in a row, To Our House allows multiple churches to team up to house several homeless people for a few chilly weeks. Don Waite, a board member for the To Our House foundation says that the number of homeless people that walk through their door continues to grow.

            “This season started off with eight people the first night, by Monday we had twelve and by Wednesday we were maxed out. And I can imagine with the coming weather and looking at the long range forecast for this winter, we’re probably going to be maxed out for most of the season.”

            The church provides up to fifteen homeless men and women with shelter, food, toiletries, and even haircuts and hepatitis shotsto help them maximize their holiday season. The homeless people are also offered help with finding jobs after they leave the shelter.

            “We’ve developed some pretty strong relationships with some of the people. During the season we provide job placement if they’re interested, if they need social security or food stamps; we provide those kinds of things. We help getting them to the right authorities and getting paperwork filled out. We also provide help in getting them housing if that’s what they want. We do everything we can to get them off the streets if that’s what they choose,” explains Waite.

            The shelter starts in early November and ends in early February. To Our House aims to keep the people off of the streets until the weather heats up. Waite says that in this time, he finds the value in each person and that because he has the opportunity to help; he is the lucky one.

            “We get to realize how much of a difference we’ve made over ten years. We’ve sheltered 337 guests in the first nine years. We’ve brought together over 50 faith communities, engaged around 1,000 volunteers. Provided 51,000 service hours, 32,000 meals, and 137 of our guests have found permanent housing out of the 377. 98 have found employment. It’s an impressive resume for us that shows we really do make a difference for them.”