ROANOKE, Va. – There could soon be an influx of homeless people looking for emergency shelter because of a new proposed ordinance in Roanoke that would ban sleeping on sidewalks. If City Council votes yes, those who camp on downtown sidewalks will be forced to move, but not without help.
Organizations like Roanoke’s Homeless Assistance Team (commonly referred to as HAT) continue to help connect people with shelter.
“The goal of everything we do, all the interactions, is to move folks on a path into permanent housing. So that’s really the focus of our work is solving homelessness,” said HAT Human Services Administrator, Matt Crookshank.
In the coming months, HAT members may face additional challenges because of the proposed ordinance.
“So we plan to be proactive with folks if the ordinance passes to really try and be urgent to get folks connected with shelter options or permanent housing,” said Crookshank.
One of the organizations that HAT works with is The Rescue Mission.
“We’re here as a place of refuge and we are always going to be that. So it’s not just homelessness, it’s so many issues. So if there is an influx we’re going to handle it,” said The Rescue Mission’s community outreach manager, Kevin Berry.
Crookshank says there are 44 unsheltered people who sleep outside. Officials say there is currently enough space in already existing shelters for people to get off the streets. But there are barriers besides homelessness that may be keeping people outside.
“Obviously mental illness plays a part for some folks, substance use. But really it’s across the board a whole variety of things,” said Crookshank.
The ordinance is not set to be voted on until December, but organizations say they’re ready if it passes.
“We’re going to be prepared and even if there is an influx, we are going to work really hard to make sure we’re prepared going forward,” said Berry.