Without knowing the full picture, it is easy for our perception and assumptions to shape our understanding of homelessness as an issue, our attitudes toward people who experience it, and how the problem should be addressed.

Common Questions and Misperceptions

People experience housing crises and move in and out of homelessness on an ongoing basis. Many are also able to resolve the problem through their own connections and support systems. Since the number of people experiencing homelessness is constantly changing, we rely on various sources of data to determine how many people are homeless in Virginia Beach.

It is true that people experience housing crises and move in and out of homelessness on an ongoing basis, which makes homelessness a complex issue. What we can do and have been doing as a community, is to prevent as many people as possible from becoming homeless, shorten the length of time that people experience homelessness, and help them leave homelessness behind for good. In other words, make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring -- that is our definition of ending homelessness.

The impact of homelessness on a community is far reaching and long-lasting. The crisis of homelessness perpetuates itself in poor educational, health, employment, and family outcomes for our community’s most vulnerable residents. The cost to the community as a whole can be measured by expenditures for police and court intervention, incarceration, emergency medical services, and hospital visits, which are estimated to cost thousands of dollars per person per year. Addressing homelessness and providing everyone the opportunity to live in safe, decent, and affordable housing is not only a quality of life issue, it is also an economic one.

Families and individuals move in and out of homelessness on an ongoing basis for many reasons: job loss, mental illness, family breakup, inability to afford housing costs, high health care costs, eviction, natural disaster, etc. While no one can force anyone to seek assistance, what we can do is get the best possible understanding of the different needs in our community and act to address them, so that people who can and do want to receive help, have the opportunity to do so.

People who are homeless have the same rights as everyone else and are free to move about the community as long as they are not breaking any laws. The role of outreach is to find and engage people experiencing street homelessness, conduct assessments in the field, make direct referrals to shelter, and connect individuals to resources. Street outreach is not an enforcement role nor is it about controlling the behaviors of homeless individuals, infringing on their rights, or restricting their movement.

Each city, individually, addresses their own specific circumstances and needs, but since 2005, we have all cooperated and collaborated through the South Hampton Roads Regional Task Force  on Ending Homelessness to achieve things that no city could or would have done on their own, including:

  • Creating 400 new units of permanent housing for previously homeless individuals
  • Creating a Regional Housing Crisis Hotline  an access point for people who need shelter, housing case management, or related resources.
  • Establishing a regional Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) to track and share data more effectively across cities
  • Working with the Veterans’ Administration, the State, and Federal government, we achieved a “functional” end to veteran homelessness in 2015, meaning that any veteran who presents as homeless in the region should be able to be housed within 90 days
  • Hosting conferences and training to share national best practices and increase collaboration

By working together, we have reduced costs, allowing each city to focus our local efforts more on direct support for people experiencing homelessness.