Concerns raised about homelessness in Roanoke
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke City Council approved a ban for sleeping on city sidewalks in December. Now, eight months later, there are fewer homeless people downtown, but they have spread out into other areas of the city.
“It’s just not a welcoming sign, I think, for the City of Roanoke,” said Teresa Stanley, a resident in southeast Roanoke.
Stanley has lived in SE 22 years. She said there’s been a homeless population in the area for a while, but she’s never seen it like this.
“The groups have gotten larger, their bravery of being out in public, they don’t care, they will approach you. It’s just so many reasons they need to be gone off the streets,” said Stanley.
Residents aren’t the only people seeing the homeless population spread out from downtown.
“We may serve a few people on the market square depending on what time we come through there, but most of our people are in the periphery of the city, some as far as the Hollins area,” said Dawn Sandoval, founder of The Least of These Ministry.
Sandoval said they are serving at least 170 people a week, which is triple what they usually see. She also feels residents might be quick to judge the homeless population at first glance.
“I think that a lot of people automatically assume, if they see someone hanging out during the day, that they’re automatically labeled as homeless, they’re automatically labeled as an addict, they’re automatically labeled as lazy and that is just not the truth. I don’t understand where people’s compassion is, we could all be in this very same situation.”
Something residents and organizations can agree on is that something needs to change.
“You don’t see this in Vinton, you don’t see this in Salem, very rarely do you see it in Roanoke County, if they can not have it, I don’t understand why Roanoke City can’t step up and make this a cleaner city. There’s more to keeping a city going than cutting the grass and planting trees, these people need help,” said Stanley.
“Everywhere that they stay is either private property, state property, or city property, they’re not wanted or permitted to be anywhere and I feel like there needs to be an in the meantime response. There has to be something and right now there is not one single place that they are permitted to exist,” said Sandoval.
Despite WDBJ7 reaching out via email, phone and in-person over the last three weeks, the city’s homeless assistance team did not return a request for an interview. WDBJ7 will continue to try and get in touch with the HAT for future stories.
The Least of These Ministry is always looking for help when it comes to their operations. For more information on how you can get involved, head to its website here.
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