By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton supervisors unanimously approved the appropriation of $25,000 for Northampton County Social Services and the Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging Tuesday night, for emergency use to find shelter for individuals and families who have become homeless during the dangerously hot summer.
“I cannot imagine anybody sleeping in a car with their children during the last few nights of 90, 95-degree weather … and we don’t want it to happen,” said Spencer Murray, chairman of the Northampton board of supervisors.
Mozella Francis, director of Northampton County Social Services, said homelessness is on the rise, and the department of social services has identified eight families that have become homeless since mid-May.
Some of the families have at least one person who is employed, but one unforeseen expense can lead to a financial disaster, she said.
“All it takes is one setback, and they’re choosing between fixing the car and the rent.”
Many families in transition don’t have $1,500 to $2,000 to pay for the first and last month’s rent and security deposit at another home for rent, and local agencies like social services are prohibited from covering those expenses, Francis said.
Donna Sample-Smith, CEO of the Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging, is facing the same issues as Francis. ESAAA serves both Accomack and Northampton counties and receives limited funding – about $7,000 in federal funds annually.
Supervisor Dave Fauber asked, “I know that all the housing in the county has been bought up and nobody lives in it, so what do you do if you’re looking for a house?”
The Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission (A-NPDC) provides a list of available housing options, but there is often a waiting list for the units, Sample-Smith said.
Housing options are so limited that frequently the agencies have no other choice but to pay for their clients to stay in a hotel for a few days or a week.
It costs $325 plus tax for a client to stay at the Regal Inn for one week, Sample-Smith said.
Staying with extended family is not an option if those family members live in subsidized housing, where there is a 14-day limit on how long visitors can stay.
“Those options that most people would default to – mom, dad, uncle, cousin – those are not options,” Francis said.
The $25,000 in emergency funds will come out of $60,000 left over in the Northampton County Social Services fiscal year 2019 budget due to the department being understaffed.
Another budget appropriation presented by Director of Finance John Chandler was for $10,000 from Northampton schools’ capital improvement fund, to make emergency repairs to a wall at Northampton High School.
Architectural firm Waller, Todd, and Sadler, of Virginia Beach, Va., found the damage in the 1978 addition to the school, in a wall near the art room, during a recent study of building conditions at the high school.
The funding request stated that bricks have come loose from the concrete masonry unit (CMU) wall, and the brick wall is bulging. The damaged area of the brick wall will be replaced and reconnected to the CMU wall.
The project will begin after the school division receives three bids and selects the lowest bid.
Superintendent Eddie Lawrence expects the demolition portion of the project will be completed before school starts.
In another matter, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is preparing to add the new road in Cape Charles, Route 642 – which provides access to Bay Creek and the town harbor – to the secondary road system.
The road also needs a name. The Cape Charles town council chose Cassatt Parkway, after Alexander Cassatt, the engineer who laid out the railroad around which the town of Cape Charles was built in the late 1880s.
Murray deemed the name appropriate and asked his fellow supervisors what they thought.
“I don’t think you want to know,” Supervisor Robert Duer said. “I think they ought to name it Cemetery Road, because that’s where the money came from to build it.”
Cemetery Road is the Northampton County section of Route 602, which is scheduled for repair by VDOT. The entire 1.75-mile stretch of Route 602 will be repaired, including the section belonging to Accomack County, named Lee Street.
Cemetery Road needs pavement repairs, and its cross-slope, which helps stormwater drain off the road, will be flattened.
The repairs are part of VDOT’s Secondary Road Six-Year Plan (SSYP) for Northampton County. The Cemetery Road project became the number-one priority only after the construction of Route 642 was completed.
“We suffer at the northern end of the county due to politics,” Duer said. “No representation ever built that road,” he said of Route 642, which was dubbed “Bay Creek’s $11 million dollar driveway” in a local blog.
VDOT estimates the Cemetery Road project will cost less than $925,000, and it is expected to be finished in 2023.
When Murray said the name “Cemetery Road” was already taken, Duer said that road could be renamed “No Way In Hell Road” because of how long citizens have waited and continue to wait for the road to be fixed.
Following the discussion, supervisors unanimously approved the name Cassatt Parkway for Route 642.