This weekend my husband and I served breakfast to the guests of the WARM program (Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry). We served a warm, homemade breakfast both mornings using food donated within 30 minutes of my Facebook post asking for donations. We are so grateful to live in a very giving, thoughtful community!

WARM operates out of local churches who take turns hosting WARM for a week at a time, November through March. They are a nighttime sleep shelter only. Folks who stay the night with WARM are woken up around 6am, served breakfast, given a bagged lunch and sent out until WARM opens back up at 6pm. Waynesboro is in desperate need of a day program and/or day shelter and although we’ve had unusually high temperatures this December, it often stays cold during the day. Folks without a place to go during the day are faced with where to go, many choosing to go to the library, YMCA, or the parks. Why can’t we find a way to better serve the homeless population in our community?

Unfortunately, the work WARM does is in jeopardy. Some lawmakers, including the President, want to criminalize and punish people who have found themselves homeless for a number of reasons.

Just earlier this month, the President appointed private housing consultant, Robert Marbut, to head the federal office on homelessness. Mr. Marbut has outlined his plans for his office, plans that go against 20 years of research and proven ways to decrease homelessness, returning to old ways that do not work. Marbut’s plans are described as “dehumanizing and ineffective” by those who have been working on the homeless issue for decades. He wants to criminalize sleeping on the streets, giving food to homeless folks. He would force people into other programs, with strict requirements.

The President himself has been on a Twitter tirade lately against homeless people, using disrespectful and degrading language. 11.3% of homeless people are veterans, 15% have a history of domestic violence (domestic violence is the number one reason women experience homelessness), 38.6% are disabled, and 37.4% are families with kids.

We have seen an increase in homelessness since the President took office, after a decade of decline. While volunteering this weekend, I learned many folks staying at WARM work during the day. Over one million homeless people are currently working full or part time. That is unconscionable, how do we accept people being homeless when they are working? Can you imagine working all day only to not have a place to go home to and relax? Can you imagine having money in your pocket but not being able to find affordable and/or low barrier housing?

WARM does amazing work, helping folks link up with other resources, helping folks find housing and work. WARM needs more support, more funding and more volunteers. Can you make the commitment to helping WARM help the most vulnerable people in our community?

Jennifer Lewis

Waynesboro

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