PEOPLE IN NEED MINISTRY
Virginia Beach gives hope to the homeless
by Angela Slevin
If you hate walking out to your car from the indoors in the summer when it’s hot or in the winter when it’s cold, imagine having nowhere to go to escape the elements. Maybe some flimsy bit of shelter presents itself to protect you from the wind and rain, or the burning hot rays of the sun, but now hunger and thirst gnaw. Every year, thousands live on the streets in extreme poverty. No city is immune to this situation, but there are people in Virginia Beach who want to help.
Fifteen years ago in June 2002, Dallas and Anne Stamper felt a calling from God to love the very poor and homeless. They had always worked with their church and community to give back, but this was different. That Sunday, Dallas and his wife brought sandwiches to a few homeless people they’d seen at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Every week the couple returned with more food, and the number of people waiting for them grew steadily. After six months there were 60 homeless men and women gathered hoping to get something to eat that Sunday. That’s when the People in Need Ministry was born.
“So many poor people in America live in a different country than the middle class,” Dallas remarks. Their lack of food, clothing and adequate shelter is a very far cry from what our everyday lives are like.
For the next four years, the husband and wife, along with their son and daughter, made more and more sandwiches every weekend. As Dallas got to know the folks he was helping, he became increasingly invested in their lives, and realized there were so many more things they were lacking, like clothing and basic first aid for cuts and insect bites.
Once Dallas and his family began their ministry, the sense of purpose overtook them. So committed to helping the homeless were the Stampers that Dallas left his job as an electrical engineer at General Electric to further the work of the PiN Ministry full time, even though there was no salary. He trusted that God would show him a way to provide for both his family and for the poor and homeless. And it happened. They downsized to a smaller home, and used the proceeds to fund their ministry.
“I was always confident that this would grow and help people because God called me to do this work. I would have been surprised if I had failed in this endeavor,” Dallas says.
Much of their work took place in their garage in the beginning. Today, they lease space from The Beach Church at 503 15th Street off Baltic Avenue near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. There, they work tirelessly with many volunteers to bring help to the area’s homeless.
PiN’s success is built on a Christ-centered foundation and on their Four Pillars: Housing, Recovery, Medical Help and Job Training. And of course, they offer free hot meals to help sustain people during their life transformation. Every Saturday morning, a full breakfast is served, and dinner on Sundays. On Thursdays, dinner and Bible Study are held, and on Sundays a special church service takes place in the afternoon so the homeless can worship without fear of being judged on their outward appearance. It’s important to nourish the soul as well as the body.
“So many poor people in America
live in a different country than the middle class.”
Housing is provided to those who show they can sustain a stable lifestyle. Residents are required to work, keep a budget, pay rent, attend PiN functions and volunteer. All along the way, PiN gives them support and guidance to accomplish these goals. This helps return them to self-sufficiency through structure and accountability.
Drug and alcohol addiction are sometimes the reason for loss of livelihood, homes, children, everything, so PiN partners with Recovery for Life to provide drug, alcohol, anger and co-dependency recovery groups for the homeless. Anyone can join a recovery group; no registration is needed - they can just walk in. On Saturday mornings, the group meets at the Beach Church on 15th Street and on Tuesday evenings at the PiN Warehouse at 413 Virginia Beach Boulevard.
A medical clinic is offered every Sunday afternoon by volunteer doctors and nurses. They provide things like basic first aid, over the counter pain or stomach remedies, essentially things one normally finds in their medicine cabinet. If prescription antibiotics are needed, or medicine for high blood pressure, respiratory issues or diabetes, PiN will fill the prescription and the homeless person can retrieve it from them that week, or in an emergency, they will deliver it. These prescriptions (which average about $1500 a month) are paid for by donors who support PiN financially. The ministry relies 100% on these donations; it receives no government funds. On Sundays at 2 p.m. a Clothes Closet takes place where the homeless can get clean clothes and hygiene supplies are distributed.
If someone would like a backpack, sleeping bag or tent, they have a homeless volunteer program to earn it. They can work around the building, vacuuming, painting, cleaning, and they get a sense of ownership. In turn, that helps the person get their self esteem back, and helps identify who wants to work for a better life. In the long run, people will feel they did it with help from PiN, as opposed to PiN doing it for them.
How about getting a job? To get a job, proper ID is required. Sounds simple, but in today’s post 9/11 climate, it’s difficult to get one without proper documentation. Proof of residence is needed to get an ID, but the homeless have no residence, so they can’t get an ID, so they can’t get a job, and they remain homeless. This cycle of homelessness is what PiN helps to end. They can also help the unemployable, such as those with felony convictions who are trying to make an honest living. Depending on the circumstances, value of items and number of offenses, shoplifting could be a felony offense. Legal help is available, too.
The homeless must live in places where they are virtually invisible, like deep in the woods, or the edges of the beach. They can’t live gently; they rough it every single day. Sunburns can be very bad, and bites from spiders and ticks are a danger, too. When Dallas visits in the woods to check on people, he comes back with two or three ticks himself; imagine the frequency of tick bites when the woods are home.
To help, their website is the perfect place to start, www.pinministry.org, whether to sign up to volunteer time, donate funds or clothing, or just to hear from real people who turned their lives around. And right now, donations of insect repellent and sunblock are especially needed.
503 15th Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23451