ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Virginia Rent Relief Program — which was a way to help people get by and keep a roof over their heads during the pandemic — came to an end on Thursday. Meanwhile, more Roanoke residents are being forced out of their homes because of skyrocketing rent prices.
According to the executive director of Family Promise of Greater Roanoke, Marie Muddiman Beebe, back in March and April, the organization was averaging about 25 calls a month for people needing help with shelter, food, etc. Now, that number has increased to 45 calls a month.
With rent relief expired, gas prices on the rise, inflation, and other economic woes, Beebe says times are hard for everyone.
“The increase has been significant because situations have been more desperate,” said Beebe
She tells WFXR News that the lack of affordable housing is the biggest cause of the problem.
“We had an example of a 73-year-old woman that called us yesterday,” Beebe recalled. “Her rent had been $650 and tomorrow it goes up to $1,000.”
According to Beebe, that 73-year-old woman will most likely face homelessness in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Kevin Berry with the Rescue Mission of Roanoke says his shelter is seeing a rise in the number of people needing food. Sometimes, people come in needing a place to sleep because their car broke down.
“Our goal with anybody who falls into homelessness is to make sure that period of their life is as brief as possible,” said Berry.
So what should you do if you are feeling the pressure?
Berry says the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s updated residential structure is broken into three phases: ‘Entry,’ ‘Establish,’ and ‘Empower.’ In the ‘Establish’ phase, individuals can come in and they can have an established presence at the shelter.
“They can take classes like job skills training or recovery classes, and those are available to individuals here on a daily basis,” said Berry.
Although the Rescue Mission of Roanoke offers those opportunities, Berry says they also rely on some certain community partners for daytime programs like Roanoke Area Ministries (RAM) House, as well as the Homeless Assistance Team (HAT).
Beebe says the Roanoke Rescue Mission, Central Intake, and other places provide food and other forms of assistance, but you can also call 2-1-1 for help.
She adds you can even call 2-1-1.
“Most of the Social Service agencies are connected there, so they can send you to the most appropriate place,” Beebe explained. “If they’re experiencing homelessness, I encourage them to go to Central Intake.”
However, she admits that resources are limited, and unless affordable housing is fixed in our area homelessness will always be an issue.
She says usually they can move a family from homelessness into a shelter in 30 to 45 days. Now, that time is doubled because there are not enough resources available.