Housing insecurity and homelessness are issues that face many people who call Waynesboro home. The issue has been hard to ignore with many citizens demanding Waynesboro City Council do more to address the problem.
The Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing has been demanding City Council adopt a rental inspection program though City Manager Mike Hamp quietly swept the issue under the rug by denying the creation of the program at the conclusion of a meeting in September. The item wasn’t on the agenda, and therefore, there was no opportunity for a response from stakeholders in the community.
Homelessness has also continued to be on the mind of many in the River City after many unhoused individuals were evicted from a tent city set up along the South River. While Waynesboro has an abundance of non-profits seeking to address food insecurity and cold weather for the homeless population, the city itself has yet to step in to offer a more permanent solution in terms of a day shelter.
The Shenandoah Valley Art Center, located downtown less than one block away from City Hall, has heard the concerns of community members and is looking to do its part to open up dialogue on the issue through a photography exhibit created by the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge. Beyond the exhibit. the CFCBR also hosted a housing summit in October bringing together government officials, nonprofit leaders and others to look for solutions to the growing crisis in the region.
“This is Home” shares the people working in and living in the housing crisis through photographs by Kate Simon. The living exhibit will be on display at the center throughout the month of February. The exhibit was created over 16 months – with new photos and stories added to the project regularly.
Beyond admiring her work, Simon hopes everyone can educate themselves and become an advocate to help everyone feel welcome in the Valley.
“I hope they are struck in some way,” said Simon. “I hope that it brings up some emotions they can draw from. Maybe they will feel drawn to do something in their community because of it.”
Piper Groves, executive director at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, said it was important to showcase the project because it is both “local and impactful,” and “it’s important to amplify those voices.”
Groves said there are ways for everyone to get involved.
“Sometimes you think there’s no way for you to help in your skill set, but this is a way for you to help. It’s to help tell the stories, and to come see the exhibit, and tell someone you know to come see it and talk about it.
“We want that domino effect of raising awareness.”