By Tina Alvey
“Some people just need a hand up,” says Francine Lockhart.
It was that philosophy that inspired Francine and her husband, Walter Lockhart, to found the nonprofit Homeless Inc. organization a year ago.
“My husband had worked for the Red Cross for 12 years,” Francine Lockhart explains. “During that time, we always helped homeless people and those who were burned out of their homes, but the Red Cross said that wasn’t its mission, so when Walter retired we decided to open a 501(c)(3) to continue helping people.”
Serving the four-county area of Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Monroe and Summers, Homeless Inc. fills a need that has reached a proportion that would probably shock most local people, Francine Lockhart believes.
“We get at least two or three calls a week asking for assistance,” she says, noting most of those calls come from Greenbrier County.
“If we find someone sleeping under a bridge, we’ll put them in a motel for a night and get them a hot meal,” Lockhart explains. “If a family gets burned out of their home, we can put them up in a motel room for two or three days to give them a chance to make more permanent arrangements.”
Such items as groceries and bed linens are also often on the Homeless Inc. shopping list, with school books and supplies soon to join them.
“We have 170-some students (in Greenbrier County) who are considered homeless,” Lockhart says. “They don’t know for sure where they’re going to spend the night from day to day.”
Lockhart says she and her husband plan to coordinate efforts with the Greenbrier County Board of Education to help provide some of the necessities those students are now doing without.
Sadly, Lockhart doesn’t see the need for her organization’s assistance diminishing any time soon.
“We’ve served quite a few people this year, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing any,” she says, noting the organization relocated two homeless veterans — one of whom was living in a Pocahontas County forest — in November.
“Walter picked (the Pocahontas veteran) up and took him to Blacksburg (Va.),” Lockhart says.
“We’ll help anybody,” she emphasizes. “We’re not prejudiced — drug addicts, alcoholics or whatever. I just hate to think about anybody being left outside in the cold.”
Future plans for Homeless Inc. include the purchase of a house — perhaps one large enough to split into apartments — to provide temporary family housing for people experiencing a run of bad luck.
“If we can find a suitable house, we can offer families a place to live for a week or more,” Lockhart notes. “That will give us time to help them find a job and get back on their feet.”
In order to support their efforts, the Lockharts and other volunteers with the organization have staged several fundraisers during the past year, including working at the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, manning a concession stand during a local Toughman competition and placing a donation jar at the Greenbrier Valley Mall during the Christmas season.
“We accept donations, and our books are open for all to see,” Lockhart stresses, pointing out the organization is registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
Volunteers from all four counties served by Homeless Inc. are also welcome.
For more information about the organization or to volunteer, call 304-645-7880. Donations may be sent to Homeless Inc., 322 N. Court St., Lewisburg, WV 24901.
The nonprofit’s website is still under construction.
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