Homelessness is on the rise in Central Virginia

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Barbara Harris and Candyce Grant trade jokes as they cook in a big kitchen. They say they feel "at home".

The two met each other a few months back and have become fast friends.

“She’s my momma,” said Grant, but what has brought them together has been a difficult experience.

This kitchen is not one they can claim, because they are both homeless.

“It makes me feel lousy. That I'm not worth anything. That people shouldn't care about me or want to help me,” said Harris.

These women are not alone. Since 2011, homelessness has increased by 65 percent.

Sarah Quarantotto heads Central Virginia's Homelessness Response System. She says with the amount of resources available, homelessness can seem hidden.

“The services are kind of tucked away, we don't really have a great sense that there are individuals in our community experiencing homelessness on every single night of the year,” said Quarantotto.

Who is actually behind the shelter doors? The numbers include nine percent veterans, 23 percent families, and 37 percent people with disabilities. But leaders say it can be anyone living in poverty who experiences a crisis. That's what happened to Harris and Grant.

With Lynchburg’s high poverty rate, the city is concerned with the numbers.

“You never know, you could be a day away from being in that same situation,” said Mayor Joan Foster.

While resources are growing, providers are hoping more preventative work will be done.

"Employment opportunities that offer a living wage, that we have safety nets in place in our community that ensures that people are not becoming homeless,” said Quarantotto.