Meeting with United Way Representative Liz Vestal

Today I met with Liz Vestal of the United Way and it proved to be an effective meeting.  The United Way of Greater Williamsburg has a Community Resource Center, at which they distribute whatever aid they can to those in need. From there, she was able to obtain some of this year’s data regarding the number of clients/households served as well as the number of referrals for aid they have received. The referral types are divided into the categories of food, clothes, household items, utilities, rent/mortgage/motel/shelter, prescription, glasses, information/screening, and other. Obviously the category most relevant to me would be rent/mortgage/motel/shelter. From there the requests are divided by months. January was the month of the most requests, 135, and April appears to be an outlier of 66, because every other month has had over 100 referrals. The total number of this type of referrals between January and July of 2013 was 767, an average of about 110 a month. The Community Resource Center of the United Way has already served 1218 households or 2636 clients in total (a huge number relative to the small population here).  Liz was also telling me about an initiative she was a part of that finds landlords who allow the United Way to manage their homes. In return the landlords allow people with past legal and financial troubles who have difficulty finding homes to live there.  For the landlords this means that they do not have to be around all the time to check on their properties, and for the tenant this means a place they can rent, and assistance in paying the rent if they are unable to all of the time. They just recently linked up with their first landlord involved in the program. This man had 11 units that he offered to the United Way, 10 of them were duplexes, and 1 is a home which the United Way will be using as a house for previously incarcerated women to transition into. Ms. Vestal was also aware of an estimation attained by her colleges that in Williamsburg during any given week there are 500-600 families living in hotels. In such a small town this is an astronomical number! In addition to all of this data, she was able to point me in the direction of some people she thought could potentially help me, including a woman working in the James City County School District and another for Social Services of James City County. She even gave me the idea of perhaps approaching a tax assessor here to see if I can acquire some data relating to property taxes, which is something I never would have been able to come up with on my own. Overall, Ms. Vestal seemed to genuinely be interested in what I am doing and wanted to help me as much as she could, so it was very refreshing to be working with someone that appeared to care as much as she did. The summer is soon coming to a close, which is disappointing, because there is still so much left to uncover.