ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – As temperatures continue to drop for much of the Roanoke Valley, the staff at the Rescue Mission of Roanoke are doing all they can to make sure that those without a home stay warm.
“Whenever the weather turns for the worst, we understand that it’s really tough to be outside. And so, we don’t want to make somebody’s bad situation even worse,” says Kevin Berry, Community Outreach Manager.
In addition to opening up earlier, the emergency shelter has emergency mats in case their over 400 beds are no longer available.
They also partner with other local homeless shelters to make sure everyone has a place to sleep, even those who have limited services.
“If it’s 42 degrees and dry outside or if it’s 48 degrees and it’s raining, we have what’s called our White Flag rule where a white flag goes up and any individuals that have had their services suspended for whatever reason, that suspension is lifted and they’re able to come in and spend the night in our shelter,” says Berry.
The amount of homeless in the Roanoke region has seen an increase this year in comparison to the past two years, but still reflects a recent downward trend.
According to annual reports conducted by the Blue Ridge Interagency Council on Homelessness, from 2012 to 2019, the number of people who have experienced homelessness decreased by half.
On one night in January 2019, 319 people were found to be homeless in the Roanoke Valley. Of all those counted, 79% were found staying at the Roanoke Rescue Mission.
The shelter not only provides a safe have for families and individuals in crisis but recovery programs and case management services as well.
Berry says he believes community involvement is to thank for the decreasing population of the amount of homeless in the Roanoke Valley.
“Communication between different agencies – referring people to the right places, making sure that they get what they need, the transportation to get there – all that is so important in making sure that these individuals not only have the emergency shelter they need but the availability to get out of poverty,” says Berry.
The Rescue Mission is currently in need of coats, hats, and gloves. Through their “Coats-Giving”, staff members are collecting donations now until Feb. 29, 2020. Donations can be dropped off at their donation center, located on 402 4th St. SE.