Roanoke community brainstorms solutions to address homelessness

Published: Jan. 29, 2023 at 7:27 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -A community forum on homelessness in Roanoke City was held Sunday at Oakland Baptist Church.

Around 50 people attended the meeting. Those who attended heard from organizations about their efforts and challenges in addressing homelessness. But the big topic was affordable housing.

The Homeless Assistant Team known as HAT, The Rescue Mission, and The Least of These Ministry all gave presentations to the community.

HAT says data show homelessness has decreased by 60 percent since 2012, but says unsheltered homelessness has gone up. What this means is more people are living on the streets than in shelters.

The Rescue Mission says pre-pandemic, it would give 5,000 boxes of food. But that has since increased to 15,000.

Community members and organizations brought up concerns about the lack of affordable housing.

“We don’t have people building affordable housing right now, today, that’s gonna be affordable for someone that has zero income,” said Dawn Sandoval. “Is it free? If it’s not free then it’s not affordable for a lot of our folks.”

Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd was asked by pastors to put the forum together.

During the meeting, she said the council is working on a possible inclusionary zoning ordinance. But first, everyone needs to agree on what the number of “affordable” looks like. And community members in the area must be in support of having these buildings in their areas.

“What we’re going to do with inclusionary zoning, hopefully, is to say if you develop within these areas,” said White Boyd. “You have to say get 10 percent of the apartments or the houses as affordable housing, but that’s driven by the market as well.”

One of the biggest tips given to the community is to not give homeless people money or food, because it builds a false sense of security. Instead, share with them the resources available. Lastly, a lot of these groups are struggling to find volunteers.