A decades-long tradition of housing the homeless at night continues in Norfolk churches

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It is written in the book of Proverbs: Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

In Norfolk, the cries of the cold, the hungry and the unsheltered have been answered. The Urban Renewal Center this winter took the torch to take care of the homeless when night falls over the region. Dr. Antipas Harris is the center’s founder.

Regina Mobley: I hear excitement in your voice when you speak about the fact that the Urban Renewal Center has now taken the torch from NEST and you’re housing the homeless at several churches in the Norfolk area. Tell me about the genesis of this project.

Dr. Antipas Harris: Over the last few years, we realized that it was needed more than ever before to return to something like this. And this has been around for years and they have done a fantastic job. And when they ended, it was like a giant went out of the room. So the URC saw that as an opportunity to continue the legacy that NEST had begun for many years.

First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk hosted the first shelter in December. Basilica of St Mary will house the homeless until Jan. 21. St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Crossroads Church, Trinity Presbyterian and New Life Church of Ghent will follow. The doors open for men and women and 6:30 p.m. and close at 6:30 a.m.

“And we’re so excited that we have so many churches that are part of winter shelters, synagogues, and mosques that are also stepping up and saying, ‘hey, how can we be a part of the solution,” Harris said. “And it’s created such a positive collaboration and positive energy. And those without homes are commenting on how they feel loved and belong. They feel like they belong, they feel supported.”

The program needs additional support.

Harris said each night some two dozen people are turned away because the churches are full. The shelters also need additional food to feed the homeless. If you would like to help, Harris advised people to call the participating churches.

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