About Homelessness

Homelessness can happen to anyone. And too often does.

Homelessness in South Hampton Roads

About_homelessness2Why are so many people in our area homeless? It’s a question without an easy answer.

Homelessness has many different causes: each as unique as the person experiencing it. Many times the causes defy the most judgmental stereotypes. Yes, sometimes it’s a choice. Sometimes it’s the result of a bad choice. But not always.

Homelessness can happen to anyone and at any time. And more and more often, it’s the result of circumstances beyond someone’s control.

Job losses and natural disasters can cause homelessness. So can divorces and domestic violence. So can poor health, hospitalizations, and overwhelming medical bills. And so can mental illness, substance abuse, and addiction. Increasingly, rising rental costs, evictions, and the lack of affordable housing are factors as well.

And often a homeless neighbor’s trauma is multiplied by a number of life-altering events at once, making those who are unhoused a particularly vulnerable population.

It is difficult to say exactly how many people without a home in our Coastal Virginia community. In 2019, officials with the Southeastern Virginia Homeless Coalition counted 1,079 homeless people in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Western Tidewater, and more unhoused neighbors are living in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth. Many more who cannot be counted are temporarily residing with family or friends, or face imminent loss of their housing.

More and more people are experiencing homelessness for the first time — and many don’t know where to turn. The Union Mission hopes to help as many as we can.

How can you help those you meet on the streets?


Helping those who are homeless is our primary ministry here at The Union Mission. Every month we house, feed, clothe, and support hundreds of homeless men, women, and children.

As you encounter homeless people on a sidewalk or at an intersection, encourage them to contact us for help. You can print out some helpful Union Mission emergency information cards with our location and phone number to give them. Along with that, you might hand them a “blessing bag” containing helpful supplies like a bottle of water, packaged snacks, socks, a rain poncho, or a fast-food gift card. Each of these items can help meet an immediate need.

And if YOU are among those who are homeless—tired, hungry, and in need of shelter—we’re here to help! Thousands of people came to The Union Mission last year because they temporarily had no place to call home. A better future can start with just a phone call: 757-627-8686.

More families without homes

The faces of homelessness are changing—now 58 percent of the homeless people in large metro areas are families, usually a single mom with a child or children. They may live couch to couch for a few months with family or friends. They may live in a temporary shelter or in their car. Some survive by living on the streets. They are forced to move frequently—and they represent the fastest-growing population of homeless people today.

At least half of homeless women are employed or employable, but do not earn enough to support themselves and their children. And homeless children are twice as likely to experience hunger, to have health problems, and to repeat a grade in school. Homeless families have greater needs: including assistance with housing, employment, childcare, school enrollment, transportation, recreation, and parenting.

A place for women with children (and without)

The Union Mission’s Women and Children’s Shelter provides hope for these families and single women in need. Because you care and because you give, we are able to provide food, clothing, shelter, education, addiction recovery, job- and life-skills training, spiritual renewal, and more to transform lives and future generations!

Give Now

Learn more about how we helped last year.

Our latest Gratitude Report is a great overview of our services for those experiencing homelessness.

With statistics and stories of our guests’ experiences, you’ll find not only good stewardship of your gifts. You’ll find real successes and lives transformed by the grace of God.

Stay Informed

Subscribe to the latest news from the Mission.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.