Special Report: The Hidden

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Thousands of people drive by everyday and have no idea. The big box store parking lot on Battlefield Boulevard, near Interstate 64, is home to many who live in their cars. They call themselves, The Hidden.

According to the President of the Chesapeake Homeless Parking Lot Ministry, typically there are 15 to 20 people surrounded by all they own in their cars, SUVs or vans parked in that particular lot. The city and the police department are aware. They work to connect them with resources and even provide security patrols.

Those who shared their stories with us simply fell on hard times and wound up without a roof over their heads. One woman in her fifties lives in her SUV with her elderly father. She works two jobs, is trying to put her son through college and just can’t make ends meet.

Another woman, Ms. Mary, is in poor health. She is battling cancer and lives alone in her van as her name sits on a waiting list for affordable housing.

One man we met was a Norfolk Police officer for 39 years. He is trying to scrape together enough money for a place to live as well.

We also spoke with Marie. She lived in her car for three months, with her dog, after being evicted. She worked three jobs and was able to save up enough to get back into her apartment.

There are an estimated 1,200 chronically homeless in South Hampton Roads. That number is just a snapshot of a count on one night and does not, usually, include those living in their cars. Those we encountered are working hard to change their circumstances, to have a better life and a place to call home.

What can we do to help? Support organizations like the Chesapeake Homeless Parking Lot Ministry. They provide resources to the homeless, volunteer opportunities and education on exactly how to assist.