ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Since the beginning of April, ARCH Roanoke has been housing dozens of Roanoke’s homeless at the downtown Ramada Inn to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We realized, early on, that having everyone congregated together probably was not the safest bet,” said Jeanne McCormick, Executive Director of ARCH Roanoke.
Back in February, McCormick made a decision: have ARCH’s Trust House serve as a quarantine location for the sick or who test positive for coronavirus, and have the healthy or at risk stay in a hotel.
McCormick described how the process of getting a room works. ARCH receives referrals from Central Intake, a homelessness prevention organization run by the City of Roanoke. These referrals are to people in need of housing, and if these people meet the criteria and fill out the proper paperwork, they’re given a room.
McCormick said it was difficult to find a hotel willing to take up ARCH’s offer, but one eventually came forward.
“Ramada Inn stepped up,” McCormick said with a grateful smile. “The owner let us know that it was a fantastic idea. He would love to help.”
At the time of this interview, nearly 50 people were staying at the Ramada Inn. One person who had been staying there since the beginning of the program was Robin Crist.
“It was a little scary, not gonna lie, because it was new to me,” Crist said.
Crist was staying at Trust House when folks were being moved to the Ramada Inn, and thus far, she’s trusted those with ARCH to protect her from the pandemic.
“I felt safe and I want to thank them all for that,” she said, fighting back tears.
Crist wasn’t the only one feeling grateful for getting a room.
“They want to help me get a place. They want to make sure I feed… every day I have meals,” said Dana Perry, who had been staying at Ramada Inn for almost three weeks, at that point.
Perry had been living on the streets close to a year before getting her room at Ramada Inn. She’s has several health problems and hopes to file for disability when offices begin opening back up.
Homeless people in Roanoke have not accounted for one single case of COVID-19, and Perry says it’s no surprise to her.
“We’re out in the elements all the time,” Perry said. “We’re out in the heat. We’re out in the cold. We’re out in the rain. We’re out in the snow. Our immune systems have built up.”
The act of generosity from ARCH and Ramada Inn gave both women hope that this pandemic won’t set them back as they try to beat homelessness.
Crist had recently started working for the 2020 Census Bureau. That source of income — combined with the city’s free transit during the pandemic and her room at Ramada — had her emotional as to what the future holds after the pandemic.
“I think the end of my homelessness is coming soon, and that’s a good feeling,” Crist said.
Perry wanted to use her room as an opportunity to encourage people that patience for something good to come along pays off in the long run.
“Don’t give up,” Perry said. “Because if you give up, you’re not gonna make it, and I’m gonna make it. I am.”
Below are several other Roanoke-area resources for those looking for homelessness assistance:
- Roanoke Homeless Assistance (HAT) Team
- Roanoke Area Ministries (RAM) House
- The Roanoke Rescue Mission
- Total Action for Progress
- The Least of These Ministry
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