Homeless group spends hours out in storm; shelter says they were allowed in

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Deana Jacobus was in Gloucester on Saturday night when she received video of homeless people trying to dodge Hurricane Matthew in Norfolk.

“Cardboard boxes on top of them, on the sides of them, underneath them, trying to keep them sheltered somehow from the rain going everywhere,” she said, describing the video.

Jacobus, the founder and CEO of Phoenix – A New Beginning, also received a call from one of those hiding out under the awning at the UP Center off 19th Street. She says the man told her the Salvation Army’s Emergency Men Shelter would not let the group in.

“They weren’t doing what the motto says: ‘Doing the most good,'” said the man, who did not want to tell 10 On Your Side his name.

Jacobus says she ended up driving for two hours in the storm trying to get help from the Salvation Army and the emergency shelter set up at Norview High School.

Norfolk city spokesperson Lori Crouch says the Norview High shelter did not turn anyone away.

The homeless man says he and eight others were out in the storm for hours until Jacobus arrived and spoke with the Salvation Army shelter’s night manager.

“A lot of people don’t have anywhere else to go, to get something to eat and stuff like that. They don’t have a choice,” he said.

Jacobus says she spoke with the manager, who said the group outside was allowed to come in if they were not banned or had been drinking. She says five out of the nine were let inside.

Shelter staff says two were not allowed to stay, because they violated those two rules and have caused problems in the past.

“The Salvation Army is a structured program where we have rules, policies, and guidelines to make sure everyone who comes through our door is respected,” said Arthur “A.C.” Corpus, who was the manager the night of the storm.

Corpus has worked at the shelter for 10 years and used the shelter 14 times prior to working there. He credits it for getting his life back on track.

Corpus says visitors can be banned from the shelter for a number of things, including fighting, destroying property, drunkenness, and threatening staff.

“The Salvation Army is a good agency. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to please everyone, but we’re going to try,” Corpus said.

Jacobus is hoping the organization can apologize to those left out in the rain and not allowed in, despite the storm’s severity.

“We’re not trying to bash or anything, but we’re trying to set the record straight. ‘Doing the most good’ means doing the most good. It’s helping those across the street from you,” she said.