Stories of Change

Housing for New Hope street outreach team members talk to neighbors in unsheltered settings. Photos courtesy of Housing for New Hope.

Blankets for Unsheltered Neighbors in Durham, North Carolina, as Winter Arrives

The cost of living in Durham, North Carolina, is going up with each passing year. As rents rise, more people struggle to find affordable housing. This need grew sharply in 2020, too, as the pandemic and related shutdowns led to spiking unemployment.

“What we have seen, and what we anticipate, is that more people will find themselves unsheltered as a result of losing employment,” says Valaria Brown, street outreach program manager at Housing for New Hope in Durham.

Housing for New Hope helps people move from homelessness to safe, permanent housing. They work with landlords across the city to rent to families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness, and they operate several supportive housing sites and programs for people with disabilities who have faced chronic homelessness.

Housing for New Hope also has a street outreach program for people living unsheltered. These are the most vulnerable of our neighbors facing homelessness: they live in tent encampments, abandoned buildings or other environments that don’t have basic necessities like running water or toilets. Unfortunately, the street outreach team is seeing a significant rise in the number of people who are unsheltered. They served as many people in a six-month period in 2020 as they did in all of 2019. Not only are financial challenges and unemployment driving people to these conditions, but shelters have had to reduce capacity to enable social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The street outreach team focuses on getting to know people in unsheltered settings, determine what they need the most and help meet those needs. The team brings supplies with them, and it’s important that the supplies are things that people can use right away.

As winter is setting in, unsheltered people need supplies to stay warm. Gloves, scarves and blankets are crucial. CWS shipped 300 CWS Blankets to their team, most of which will be for the street outreach program. The thick, wool blankets are exactly what people need as the weather turns cold. Hygiene supplies are also always useful in this work, so we also sent them 300 CWS Hygiene Kits. That way the team can distribute these packages of towels, soap, combs, toothbrushes, fingernail clippers and Band-Aids for our unsheltered neighbors. “Hygiene kits are perfect,” Valaria says, “because what people always need are things that they can use right then and there.”

“Housing for New Hope is thankful for the contributions from CWS because these are items that our street outreach team can use to ensure that people who are living unsheltered have blankets, soap and other hygiene tools that they can use day to day during winter months,” she said.

Around the beginning of 2021, Housing for New Hope’s partner Open Table Ministry will open an emergency warming shelter at its home of Trinity United Methodist Church. This shelter will be open for eight to ten weeks during the coldest part of winter. Some of the blankets and hygiene supplies will be used for guests in that shelter as well.

“We’re really grateful. Many of you have participated and supported Open Table, Housing for New Hope, the CROP Hunger Walks here in the community–and this is a great way to see all those pieces come together, all of those partnerships coming to fruition to care for our most vulnerable neighbors. We thank you so much for your help,” says Rev. Russ Pierce, the executive director of Housing for New Hope.