Mission Statement

I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you today about Blankets for the Homeless and our desperate need for financial help.

When I first started Blankets for the Homeless in 2011 It was blankets and lunches but at the homeless peoples request it almost immediately went to collecting and distributing not only blankets and lunches but also coats, hats, gloves, jeans, walking shoes, tarps, tents, toiletries, heavy duty dark colored garbage bags, rain ponchos, summer and winter clothes, the list goes on and on. As I said in the video the need is always there, the need is always great, it just changes as the weather does.

We are a 501C3 but are not funded. I have numerous speaking engagements at schools, businesses, organizations, and almost every Sunday I speak at a different church where they then do donation drives for the items we distribute to the homeless.

We are very fortunate and grateful to be able to get these items to help them with their daily needs but I want Blankets for the Homeless to reach it's full potential to help the homeless in an even bigger and more effective way.

We distribute clothes, food, tents, and other items that are so needed and greatly appreciated by the people living on the streets but we also help families with small children living in hotels and in their cars.

With financial support, there is so much more that we can do to provide these families help to get them out of hotels and into an apartment. A home of their own.

Many people do not see what these families and children living in hotels have to endure. They have to continually move sometimes weekly depending on the rates of the rooms and how those rates fluctuate. This affects the children in an even greater way because of having to change schools to be in the district that they are living in. We have paid for rooms directly to hotels countless times when families were facing the inability to pay for another night. These families are in a constant state of stress and fear not knowing what is going to happen week to week or even day to day depending on their work situation.

Getting into an apartment is also a process that is very difficult for them. Due to the horrific circumstances that led to them being homeless.....losing jobs, foreclosures, illnesses, and other situations that can happen to anyone living pay check to pay check, bad credit is one of their biggest problems.

When applying to get into an apartment there is a credit check fee, application fee, and sometimes other fees that can go from $60 to $100 dollars. Once they are denied this money is not refunded. Money they cannot afford to lose. Money that will keep them in a hotel room for a night and help them feed their children. This is one of the things we want to be able to do for them. We want to ease that burden for them. Make it possible for them to apply without losing money they cannot afford to lose. And that is just the first step.

We also want to be able to pay the security deposit and turn on the utilities. This is not a hand out but a hand up for people who have jobs, who are working hard, but are in no way able to save money when it costs over twice as much to live in a single hotel room that it would cost to live in an apartment if they had the help to get into one.

Another problem they face is how many children they have and how many rooms they "legally" have to have in an apartment. The more rooms, the higher the rent. Forcing them to have no other choice but to all live in a tiny hotel room. It is beyond heartbreaking to see.

Vehicles are also very important and desperately needed for people who are homeless to be able to get back on their feet and for them to be able to get and keep a job. Again the credit checks and monthly payments are not an option for them in their current situation. We want to be able to by old but reliable privately owned vehicles to give them the ability to look for work. We already have a privately-owned car repair place willing to look over those cars to make sure they are in good working condition. We also want to be able to help them pay for the vehicle fees and plates. Owning a vehicle would make a huge difference for them in so many ways.

When we do our Christmas event of going to the hotels so the children can see "Santa", get a stocking and pick out a new toy and also provide food that is such a blessing to bring these children happiness, something many families take for granted, but it is also devastating when their crying parents are thanking us because if WE did not go to THEM to do this their children would not have had anything for Christmas. They cannot get to the location for "Toys for Tots" without a vehicle and cannot afford to get everyone on a bus to go. They are the forgotten families. We are doing our best to not let them be forgotten again.

One thing we have learned from the almost five years we have been doing this is that most of the homeless people and families we have met and helped are people just like you and me, people who have had something bad happen in their life that led to the domino effect of them losing everything they own.

With financial help and support we can make a huge difference in their lives. PLEASE help us help them. We need to become funded, we need to be able to make all of this happen so that these children have a home. So, that people living on the streets have a second chance.

People tend to ask me why I am doing this.

I was born and abandoned on Christmas Eve 22 years ago. So, when I was born I was homeless too. My foster parents adopted me when I two years old, and I feel so fortunate and blessed to have that love and security when my future was so uncertain at first.

Thank you all for taking the time to listen to me. If you want to learn more, please visit our website blanketsforthehomeless.org which has our PayPal on it. NO donation is too small. Please help US help them!

Our website will also take you to our Blankets for the Homeless Hampton Roads Facebook page where you can see thousands of pictures of all that we do.

Thank you so much.

Mariah's Testimony

My name is Mariah Smith I'm 21 years old and I am the founder of Blankets for the Homeless.

Early October 2011, I was at a sonic with my mother and saw a Homeless man nearby. He was crouched down on the ground and had a little cart with him that had bags tied to it. He had a very deep cough... it was heartbreaking. It's hard to describe what went through my mind at that time, but all I knew is that I wanted to do something to help him. I looked in the back seat and saw that we had a blanket. I grabbed the blanket and food we had ordered and took it to him. He immediately wrapped the blanket around himself and started eating. I had never seen a Homeless person before so to say that I was horrified... is an understatement. On the way home all I did was cry.

When I got home I went to our linen closet and saw blankets that I did not even recognize... I knew what I needed to do. I made a flier with our phone number asking for donations of used blankets. Within a week I had distributed over 300 fliers to Hotels at the waterfront, local businesses, Schools, and Churches. After just two days people donated over 50 blankets, every day I would get calls from the fliers I distributed. More blankets were being donated. This was the beginning.

I had never really known the true meaning of hunger until I saw the way that man ate what I had given him. He was starving. After seeing that, I wanted to make sure that with every blanket we also gave a brown bag lunch. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bag of chips, cookies, piece of fruit and a bottle of water that they can refill. I know that a blanket and a lunch does not seem like much, but to someone who is hungry and sleeping on the ground it is the difference between being hungry and cold.. or not.

The first time we went out was the hardest. It was not hard finding the homeless, because if you are looking for them they are not hard to find. The hard part was trying to keep our emotions under control. I did not want to be crying while handing them a lunch and blanket. I wanted them to have the dignity that they deserve.
Originally, we started in Virginia Beach but soon expanded to Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and we are continuing to grow. We drive all over looking for the Homeless community. They really are a community and look out for each other. They are always asking us to help their friends and tell us where we can find them. So, we go help them... and then they tell us about their friends...and the cycle just keeps going.
We have learned a lot about the Homeless shelters and how they work and we partner with them sharing our donations with them but when we distribute we don't go to the shelters, we deliver directly to the people on the streets. The shelters only hold so many so, we try and target the people who are not fortunate enough to get into a shelter.
Blankets for the Homeless is four years old and to date we have handed out over 110,000 blankets and lunches. We also collect and distribute sleeping bags, coats, hoodies, hats, scarves, gloves, sweatshirts, backpacks, Jeans, walking shoes, rain ponchos, in the summer we collect bug spray, sunscreen, summer clothes, baby wipes, the list goes on and on, basically anything they need we try to find a way to get it for them. The need is always there, the need is always great, but it changes as the weather does.
People ask me why I am doing  this… What made me want to help?
I was born and abandoned on Christmas Eve 21 years ago. So, when I was born I was homeless too. My foster mother adopted me when I was 2 years old. My parents are amazing and I feel so fortunate and BLESSED to have that love and security when my future was so uncertain at first.
I am helping the homeless because I want them to know that someone truly cares. I hope that what we are doing brings awareness to something so tragic…..being homeless.
We welcome everyone who wants to help us, there are so many different things that you can do to get the people around you involved, adults can go to their places of employment and ask if they could put a drop box there, teens can go to their principal and ask to have a blanket collection, or a collection of other items that they so desperately need like gloves and back packs. We also have a Facebook page BLANKETS FOR THE HOMELESS HAMPTON ROADS that you could “Like” and “Share” to help us spread the word.
We will come and pick up any items donated and distribute them. We are also asking that everyone make a "Blessing Box" to keep in their car with five non-perishable lunches, blankets, clothes, hats, gloves, toiletries, and other desperately needed items so you can immediately help someone in need. You can make a difference! We all can! 


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