Home Bitter cold temperatures ahead to complicate life for unhoused individuals in the Valley

Bitter cold temperatures ahead to complicate life for unhoused individuals in the Valley

Crystal Graham
homeless man
(© Photographee.eu – stock.adobe.com)

Temperatures in Waynesboro and throughout Virginia will be the coldest so far this season next week, with temperatures as low as 15 degrees and highs staying below 40 degrees.

Snow may also fall on Monday night and Tuesday making conditions throughout the River City for those who live on the streets unbearable.

For the region’s homeless, the colder temperatures are especially brutal, and even with cold-weather shelters available at night, during the day, staying warm is a challenge.

In Waynesboro, there are no advertised warming shelters. There are public buildings like the library, post office and town hall, as well as businesses and churches.

Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry Acting Executive Director Brian Edwards hopes the community will be kind to unhoused individuals seeking shelter in places you normally don’t see them.

“The sun will not offer them much comfort,” Edwards said. “I hope stores, government buildings and churches that will be open for them during the day will be patient, tolerant and welcoming.”

Edwards spent 24 hours outside the Waynesboro Y in December to experience first-hand what the area’s homeless face 365 days a year. He used YMCA restrooms that are open to the public and had minimal access to shelter, heat, food and water.

“As a hot-natured individual, I was surprised that I found the cold so difficult,” Edwards said. “I felt quite isolated during the six hours that I was completely alone. I know some of our unsheltered neighbors prefer solitude, but for most of us, socialization is necessary for survival.”

The cold-weather shelters offered by WARM in partnership with area churches in Waynesboro and Augusta County and Augusta Expo in Fishersville operate from Thanksgiving to Easter. The shelters are available at night at a different location each week with a meal and fellowship, and most importantly, warmth, for unhoused individuals who choose to stay there.

The church sites cannot keep the homeless there during the day due to other activities and pre-K or childcare.

Edwards said they have been averaging 35 guests per night at the shelter. The organization received additional funding and had some restrictions eased by Waynesboro City Council to attempt to double their capacity. However, Edwards said, there hasn’t been demand – yet – for the extra beds, and they haven’t been able to hire enough staff to handle the increased volume. They have been able to meet the requirements to offer shelter to up to 50 people this year.

Edwards said it is disappointing there aren’t more solutions for those facing housing insecurity during the coldest days of the season and wishes Waynesboro city leaders were more proactive in offering solutions in times like these.

“It is a frustrating, exhausting time,” Edwards told AFP Friday night.

Winter Nite fundraiser

WARM is hosting a “Winter Nite” fundraiser on Feb. 16 from 6-9 p.m. at Barren Ridge Vineyards. The event will feature Little Walter & The Convictions. The cost is $50 per person and includes heavy hor d’oeuvres, live music, espresso coffee and dessert.

To purchase tickets, call (540) 324-8166.

All proceeds benefit the Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry.

Waynesboro: Homeless advocate to spend 24 hours outside for challenge to raise awareness

Waynesboro: WARM permit will allow for additional mother, children in supportive housing

WARM hosts open house, ribbon cutting for new offices on Fairfax Avenue

Waynesboro: Rising temperatures don’t meet ‘criteria for a cooling center’

Region’s cold-weather shelter to double capacity; offer respite to ‘feel like a human being’

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.