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

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

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

A Waynesboro man plans to spend 24 hours outside for the first day of winter to experience first hand what the area’s homeless face 365 days a year.

Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry Executive Director Brian Edwards will be outside the Waynesboro Y from 1 p.m. on Dec. 21 to 1 p.m. on Dec. 22.

The 24-hour experiment aims to raise awareness about the plight of homeless people in winter and to raise funds for the area’s cold-weather shelter and for the Ruth’s House for Women and Children which provides transitional housing and support for women and children.

Edwards will have only the barest supplies for food and warmth during what he calls “Homeless Alone: A Stay WARM Challenge.” The name of the even is a play on the popular move, “Home Alone.”

Edwards will be able to use the minimal food, water, and supplies he brings. For heat, Edwards will only use what is approved under the city’s municipal code and what an unsheltered person might have access to. The YMCA has restrooms that are available to the public so Edwards will be able to use those while the YMCA is open.

Y Executive Director Jeff Fife has granted Edwards permission to camp in front of the YMCA on South Wayne Avenue in downtown Waynesboro for this event.

“Homelessness is a year-round problem but in wintertime you have the real threat of hypothermia,” said Edwards.

WARM’s cold-weather overnight shelter has seen increasing numbers each week since it opened for the season. The shelter runs from Thanksgiving to Easter.

This event also creates an opportunity to raise awareness of WARM to those who might benefit from their services.

“Sometimes it’s not just awareness for people in the community who help support WARM, this is also a chance to let our unsheltered neighbors learn about us,” Edwards said. “If someone comes by while I’m out there, we can get them to the cold weather shelter. We meet people all the time who are hearing about the help we offer for the first time.”

Edwards said the challenge is meant to show how a homeless person in the area lives – alone, eating outside and using public restrooms. But, Edwards said, as the region’s homeless population faces isolation and difficulty finding places to set up an encampment.

“I’ll be doing this for 24 hours but some folks have been doing this for months even years,” Edwards said.

Founded in 2011, WARM organizes a cold-weather shelter as well as transitional housing and outreach programs. WARM currently provides winter shelter to homeless adults at sites in Waynesboro and Augusta County and temporary housing and supportive services to homeless women and children in Waynesboro.

Donations may be dropped off at the Y during the challenge at 648 S. Wayne Ave. before 8 p.m. on Dec. 29 or after 5 a.m. on Dec. 22. No money will be accepted or kept on premises overnight. Donations may also be mailed to 1035 Fairfax Ave., Waynesboro, Va. 22980, or made online at www.warmwaynesboro.org

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.