Non-profit transforming former motel into affordable housing for homeless

Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 6:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - An old motel will soon become housing for the homeless population in Roanoke, thanks to The Least of These Ministry.

In just two months, the former Apple Valley Motel will be transformed into Suites by TLOT to serve the homeless population in Roanoke.

Hundreds of people are without a place to live right now in the Star City. Data show the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in Roanoke City has increased from 269 in 2022 to 305 in 2023.

“Nobody woke up and decided they wanted to be homeless,” said Executive Director Dawn Sandoval. “Nobody decided that they wanted to struggle with addiction, or lose their job or have a house fire, or suffer from mental illness.”

Some of them are veterans, on disability, and others even work full-time jobs. The non-profit TLOT provides a safe space for the homeless to visit three times a week.

“We can come here, have lunch, eat, shower, you know, take a shower, we’ll have a coach wash and we’ll have some fresh clothes,” said Wesley Cornelius.

But Executive Director Dawn Sandoval wants to take a step further. TLOT is leasing the building to provide housing at an affordable price. People must be experiencing homelessness and have a fixed income to qualify. It is not a homeless shelter or free housing.

“They don’t make enough money to save for a deposit and first month’s rent or they don’t earn enough for a landlord to rent to them because they don’t earn three times whatever the rental rate is. So, this was just an opportunity, especially as we approach the winter months to help people find shelter,” explained Sandoval.

The 19 rooms will be re-done and fully furnished with a capacity to host up to 30 people in total. The goal is to begin leasing suites by January.

“The topic of conversation surrounding affordable housing has been going on in our community for a very long time,” added Sandoval. “But it’s in the doing that makes the difference for people that are experiencing homelessness.”

You can volunteer by joining multiple community events, scheduled in November and December, offering members of the community an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get directly involved in preparing the suites for their first tenants. The first opportunity is Saturday, November 4 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There are other ways you can help:

  • Financial donations can be made online via PayPal. Checks can be mailed to 602 Marshall Ave, SW in Roanoke, VA, 24016.
  • You can also visit an wish list to purchase items for the project.
  • Corporate sponsorships are available! Reach out to Dawn Sandoval for more information.

In a statement to WDBJ7, Roanoke City’s Human Services Administrator said, “As the number of unsheltered individuals in our community has more than doubled over the last several years, so has the need for resources to serve this population. Permanent, affordable housing is an acute need in our community. Our City and region are thousands of units short of meeting the housing needs of the lowest income households in our community. The Homeless Assistance Team looks forward to working with The Least of These Ministry, and the broader community, to connect those in need to this new resource that will help meet a critical need.”