Virginia Beach and South Hampton Roads Cities to Hold Vigils to End Homelessness

Dec. 21 is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

Friday, December 14, 2012

On Friday, Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year and the first official day of winter, the Cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Norfolk will hold vigils in each city in recognition of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Each year an estimated 7,000 individuals experience homelessness in the region, and this includes a significant number of children and families. The vigils are held to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness and commemorate the homeless people who have died on the streets in Hampton Roads in 2012.


“The purpose of this event is to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless citizens who lost their lives while on the street,” says Alicia Mathews, director of St. Columba Ecumenical Ministries. “At this time, advocates, service providers, homeless and formerly homeless people, religious leaders and concerned citizens will come together to honor the lives and dreams of homeless men and women who died in South Hampton Roads. Shelters and food pantries cannot meet the increased demand for services. The homeless vigil emphasizes the need for all citizens to recognize the problem of homelessness in their communities and recommit to ending it.”


The National Coalition for the Homeless established National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, an annual event held in 150 cities and counties across the United States. 


Vigils are scheduled across South Hampton Roads on Dec. 21 at the following locations:

  • Virginia Beach Vigil: 7 to 8 p.m. at The Lighthouse Center, 825 18th St.
  • Chesapeake Vigil: 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Heron’s Landing Apartments, 2133 S. Military Highway
  • Norfolk Vigil and Half-mile Walk: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., will begin at Salvation Army, 5525 Raby Road, and end at Union Mission, 5100 E. Virginia Beach Blvd.
  • Portsmouth Vigil: 5:30 to 6 p.m., High Street Landing (at the foot of High Street in downtown Portsmouth)

Seven years ago, the South Hampton Roads Regional Task Force to End Homelessness was created to find solutions for chronic homelessness. The task force is a collaboration between the Cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk; Isle of Wight County; The Planning Council; United Way of South Hampton Roads, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and nonprofit organizations throughout the region. In partnership with Virginia Supportive Housing, the task force developed four regional apartment complexes for formerly homeless adults. That, along with the efforts of other area nonprofits, has provided more than 600 units of housing for the homeless.


The region has focused on developing and creating permanent supportive housing, which is the single biggest solution to chronic homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is affordable housing (with rents usually subsidized), and offers support services for people who have physical, mental health or substance abuse issues.  These individuals often need extra help to remain in housing and become self-sufficient.


Permanent supportive housing is a cost-effective method for ending homelessness. It costs approximately $14,000 per year to provide housing and supportive services to a single homeless adult, but it can cost public systems an estimated $50,000 per year when a single homeless adult continues to cycle through jails, emergency rooms and hospitals.


For more information about the South Hampton Roads Regional Task Force to End Homelessness and the vigils, please contact Claudia Gooch, The Planning Council’s vice president for community planning and development, at (757) 622-9268 or visit