Living in a Homeless Camp

I recently took my first visit to a homeless camp in Woodbridge, Virginia. Not many people know that homeless camps exist, but if you knew where to look, you could find a homeless camp near you.

When homeless shelters reach their capacity, many folks are turned away and have no place to go. Shelters can actually get fined thousands of dollars for exceeding their capacity limit. The people that are turned away create these campsites in the woods, and build their own supportive community.

I was invited to visit this camp by Jay Herriott, the founder of The 25th Project. Jay has been preparing and donating meals to the homeless since 2002. He began by donating a meal to the homeless on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now frequently donates meals and supplies year round. Rather than only helping out on December 25th, they organize a giving event on the 25th of every month. On Christmas Day of this year, they were able to donate 144 meals!

It was a cold and snowy morning on our way to the camp, with temperatures in the upper 30s. When we got to the camp, I was more shocked than anything else. I couldn’t believe that human beings were living outside every day in these freezing temperatures.

Jay and his friends prepared 2 big containers of chili, and we had ourselves a nice lunch with the residents in the camp. I brought them 12 fleece scarves and 17 winter hats, which were very well received.

It was really great getting to meet Jay and the residents in the camp. One man that I met has been living in the woods for the past 4 years. Most of the residents are older, with a few younger residents in their 20′s. Many are looking for work, while a few of the folks have jobs, and take a bus to work and back to the woods.

Escaping the cycle of homelessness is extremely difficult. For the folks in the camp that have jobs, the pay is not enough to afford them a roof over their heads. With very limited electricity, no running water, no place to store and refrigerate food, they are constantly on the hunt for new sources of food. Imagine yourself living in these conditions while trying to get back on your feet.

How You Can Help

We need more people like Jay in the world, who are helping these people get back on track. We need you! Join Jay and the folks at The 25th Project to make a difference: Email them at to get started!

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