VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A place to call home is something many people take for granted. For people impacted by homelessness, they don’t have that luxury. Plus, it can be hard to get into stable housing. A local nonprofit is working to help.
The mission of the “Homeless Hustle Network” is to meet people where they are.
In one case, it’s helping a veteran and his wife, who have been on the streets for decades, get into a home of their own.
“It’s very gratifying to know when you walk through there, and you got that key in your hand … that’s the best day in the world is having that key and knowing that when you walk in that door, you can close that door and all the, all the B.S. is outside and you’re inside safe and warm,” said Randy McMillan.
The Homeless Hustle Network helped McMillan find a space he can call his own, for the first time in a long time.
McMillan served in the Navy and then worked as a welder, but got sick. The bills piled up and then he and his wife wound up homeless, spending years on the streets of Arizona and California.
“You don’t know who’s coming past you, you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t have any security, you don’t feel very comfortable,” McMillan said. “There’s a lot of people out there that do look down on you. You know, you’re just a third-class citizen.”
McMillan and his wife Karen moved back to Virginia Beach last December. They lived in the woods outside of a Wawa. Getting back on their feet felt impossible.
“You don’t have a driver’s license, you don’t have identification, trying to get your medical card and trying to get your food stamp card just to have subsistence, it’s hard,” McMillan said.
That’s when they met Tracy Barton-Niles, who heard about them through Facebook friends.
“One day I pulled up and I said ‘there’s the dog, there’s the lady, there’s the man’,” Barton-Niles said.
“She showed up over there one day and we got to talking,” McMillan said. “She said, ‘how can I help you?’ and I said ‘it’s cold out here and we need some help’ and she helped us.”
Barton-Niles helped get them into a motel and then eventually into an apartment.
“The network makes things happen,” said Barton-Niles. “We like to be the yes to everybody else’s no. The impossible gets done.”
Barton-Niles has been running the non-profit for almost one year. She literally puts herself in her clients’ shoes: she and her husband spent a night on the streets of Norfolk back in December.
“I can only imagine, after one night sleeping out on the street, how hard it is to get up, find a bus, find bus fare, eat breakfast and get to social services on your medical appointment on time,” said Barton-Niles.
She is passionate about meeting people where they are — whether that means giving someone cold-weather gear, or connecting them with resources, like she did with McMillan.
“She’s an angel,” McMillan said. “Truly I believe that. Her and her husband are incredible.”
The network Barton-Niles has created is giving McMillan another chance.
“I’m very hopeful for the future, very grateful,” said McMillan.
To volunteer or get involved, visit the Homeless Hustle Network’s website.