Homeless Meeting

By: Kelly Creswell Email
By: Kelly Creswell Email

City officials tried to figure out a way to help out those who don't have a place to stay for the night. Church members are trying to model a program after other cities like Richmond and Charlottesville, but they need the help of the entire community to make it happen here in Harrisonburg.

"What we're trying to do is to provide emergency, not long-term, emergency shelter for people who don't have it, for whatever reason they don't have it," says Patty Huffman, a member of the Interfaith group.

As a member of the interfaith group at the Blessed Sacrament Church, Patty Huffman wants to form an organization that would keep homeless people from freezing in the streets.

"If we could get twenty, or twenty-five member churches each of us taking one week in the cold winter, it's doable I think in our community, to shelter those chronically homeless folks," says Huffman.

But it's going to take the help of the community to get this program running, and some people want more than a short-term solution.

"That we make sure that we use whatever resources we're already got and that hopefully we can spend our time really looking at some solutions that are going to be more long range, really getting housing for people so that we aren't spending a lot of money for short-term solutions," says Ruth Stoltzfus-Jost, a former director of legal services.

Richmond has a program called Caritas, meaning love in Latin, that addresses this problem. And Huffman says eventually, her goal is to offer more services to the homeless to get them on their feet.

"To develop a program like Caritas, we won't call it Caritas, we'll create our own name, and Gaudium is the one I have thought up because it means hope and what we would like to offer is hope, hope to not freeze to death," says Huffman.

The next step is to get support from church members to start up this organization and try to get as many churches in the city involved. And there are still other obstacles, churches need to have insurance, zoning laws have to be amended, and of course, funding needs to come from somewhere before any of this can happen.

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