Lynchburg shelter helping homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic as colder weather hits

Fewer people on the streets as program takes on more clients

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Barbara Harris was once homeless and says between COVID-19 and the colder weather, she’s grateful now more than ever to have a roof over her head.

“I can’t imagine myself being out on the street again,” Harris said.

But for others, it’s reality.

“I see people on the streets here in Lynchburg, and I know they’re homeless. And a lot of them won’t go into shelters, so I wonder, 'what in the world do they do?” she added.

Harris is one of many receiving help from Miriam’s House, a shelter program making sure those on the street have a roof over their heads while remaining socially distant.

“The less people in shelter, the less dense the shelter is, and the more that they can social distance,” said Kristen Nolen, director of housing services.

Nolen says Lynchburg has actually seen a drop in homelessness compared to this time last year and 2018. That’s because organizations like theirs are taking on more clients.

“We have been steadily expanding our caseloads and trying to get as many people out of shelter and into housing as possible,” said Nolen.

To do that, Miriam’s House is using grants for hotel vouchers, partnering with landlords to house clients and helping those facing eviction and on the brink of homelessness.

“Individuals who are experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of being hospitalized if they do contract COVID and at an even greater risk of dying if they contract COVID,” Nolen said.

They do this all to help others like Harris and end homelessness in their community.

“I have a sitting area and a bedroom, but to me that means everything in the world,” Harris said.

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