Nearly one year ago, Waldorf was caught in the midst of Winter Storm Johan and The Arnold House, a local organization dedicated to feeding the hungry and homeless, partnered with local businesses and members from the community to help those living in the woods find shelter and get access to hot meals.
Fortunately, the Waldorf Motel opened its lobby to us and provided rooms for those in need. It was during that time I got to know not only the people we had sheltered, but, the other “invisible people”-the people who were living at the motel. Some of them were here for a day or so, others for the weekend, some for a month or two-if they could afford to stay that long, and still others were there long term, calling the Waldorf Motel-home.
At the motel you see young and old; the physical and mentally challenged; those who worked everyday and those who slept during the day because they partied at night. Occupants of the rooms range from individuals to five or six friends living together. Couples or young families with children, and on a few occasions I’ve seen families made up of grandparents; parents; and other family members living together in motel room turned makeshift apartment.
Ironically, it’s probably the most diverse community in the county. Ethnicity and gender issues were not really a problem, though the individuals may not always get along, each resident shares a common theme; fighting poverty and trying to keep a roof over their head.
What’s more interesting is the apartment building next door was kind of that next step people worked towards in order to begin having “a normal life”, though in reality it wasn’t much better. Yes, it was a more permanent residence and they could eliminate the stigma of “being homeless”, but you still have families with no food and as we discovered during the winter storm, some had no electricity or water. Well today, I found out and I really hope its not true, but all of that is about to change.
Waldorf Motel and the JSB apartments are going to be torn down. While it may mean new developments and businesses which is good for the area, but what happens to those people; the families; the children? What resources are available to them? My heart and soul ache thinking about it. It’s truly sad that people, especially families with children could be forced to live in tents and become part of the “invisible people” because there no housing available and affordable housing is not a reality in this area.
I don’t have the answer and hopefully this won’t be the case, but should the need arise; we at the Arnold House will do our part. Just as we feed the children and their families on weekends through our backpack program, somehow and someway, we will get “boots on the ground” working to feed this new group of “invisible people”.