This morning, the temperature is 19 degrees and reports from St. Louis are 3 degrees, (feels like -9) and all I can think is that in some communities, the homeless men and women spent the night outside. In Charlottesville, there’s an organization that works to make sure that not one of our homeless individuals freezes to death on our streets in the winter. That’s the whole mission, in fact — a simple but very necessary effort to provide overnight shelter; a place to sleep, a pillow, clean bed linens, a way to take a shower and get laundry done, a hot meal and a lunch to take with you in the morning.
The organization is People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry (PACEM), a nonprofit group that is comprised of faith-based organizations of all kinds, coming together to provide shelter space during the winter months for our homeless population. The organization has paid staff who manage the logistics, who stay with the overnight guests, who manage the volunteers and the donations and coordinate the congregations. It’s a big job.
In Charlottesville, there have been so far this season about 45 homeless men overnight and at the most so far, 11 homeless women as guests of PACEM. That’s quite a few for the size of our community.
I am on the board of PACEM — I believe in their mission; have been moved by the homeless people I have met in Charlottesville and understand that “but for the grace of God, there go I.” In this economy in particular, it is fairly simple to see how one can become homeless. All it takes is a short series of unfortunate events and before you know it, your house payment or rent become impossible to meet. My friend and fellow blogger Jim Duncan pointed out recently (as his washer and dryer and refrigerator simultaneously went kaput) that if his circumstances were different how he could absolutely see how that kind of — in his world — necessary appliance tragedy could start a slope for some families that would be impossible to get out of. I sometimes think that most of us, unfortunately, are just one major financial tragedy away from our homes being in jeopardy. Did you know that many of our homeless are employed? That’s right. They need the overnight shelter and the brown bag lunch so they can get up and go to work in the morning.
Why am I telling you all of this? It’s the season of giving and — because it’s cold outside. PACEM needs your help to keep offering their services to our community. They have a list of items that you can donateÂ or, if it is your wish to provide a monetary donation, you may do so online here or by mailing a check to: PACEM, P.O. Box 14, Charlottesville, VA 22902.