Homeless shelter reopens in Portsmouth to serve families in need

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — An emergency homeless shelter for families is back open in Portsmouth. 

As soon as the Park shelter shut down in May due to financial problems, the folks at H.E.R. Shelter for domestic violence stepped in.

“We took money out of our budget and put people up in area hotels and provided food and staff over there to help them to work toward their goals.” said H.E.R. Program Director Joy Shaffer.

They just signed a lease with the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which owns the building, to reopen it.

“We just housed a family of 10 and a family of five and we are expecting five families in this week starting today, so I’m running around now trying to get things prepared,” said Chris Cephus, homeless program manager.

That’s a big job. There are boxes to unpack and empty shelves to fill with food.  You name it, they need it.

“From baby cribs to baby clothes for newborns all the way up to teens and adults.” Cephus said.

Portsmouth has the highest rate of homelessness per capita  in Virginia. “We were homeless like several times when I was a child.” Shaffer recounted.

She now works with the shelter, but when she was in the fifth grade she stayed at the Park Shelter, in room number 4.

“Still remember the activities and the families and just the excitement of having a stable place to be.” she said.

Now, when she meets a family living in their car it drives her to take on the extra work of this third facility.

“We are all super busy, but we just believe in the cause, and so we go throughout the different buildings and making sure that all of the clients have what they need.”

They usually get them set up in new housing in 30 days and are committed to doing it indefinitely. The only catch is they need the money and donations to keep the shelters running.

It will remain a shelter for families while their other two shelters are strictly for victims of domestic violence.  If you would like to help, go to H.E.R. Shelter on Facebook.

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