MARTINSVILLE, VA. – Overnight low temperatures continue to plummet and that’s bad news for people in our area living on the streets.
This year, the Martinsville Henry County Warming Center is facing a new problem due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cristen Anderson is the center’s director and is wondering what happens when the community’s safety net needs a safety net of its own.
“Volunteers weren’t an issue last year, volunteers are an issue this year so if we don’t have volunteers, that safety net breaks and so we don’t have anywhere for anyone to go,” Anderson said.
On Sunday night the center shared on Facebook that it had to close its doors. It had the beds, the food and the warmth, but it did not have enough people to staff it.
“Thankfully we were able to take and get hotel rooms for the guests that we had last night but that’s not financially possible for the rest of our season,” Anderson said.
Tina Moore was one of the volunteers Monday night. She knows just how important this is because she herself was homeless for about six months in 2018. The warming center is the only kind of short-term emergency housing in the area.
“I know how it is to be cold. It breaks my heart,” Moore said. “If someone doesn’t have the proper hygiene products or heat or anything then they can give up, I just want people to know that there’s hope out there.”
The center is chalking the shortage up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson said they’re following all safety protocols and best practices. As the temperatures continue to drop, they’re now putting out the all call.
“People can make financial donations if they want to, but most of all we need just people, people want to keep giving us stuff and clothes and blankets and food and all of that’s necessary as well, but without people we can’t operate,” Anderson said.
Volunteers are needed for two shifts. The first is a shorter shift that helps check guests in, the second is the overnight shift. Volunteers can sleep at the center when working overnights.
You can find more information on the center’s Facebook page.