While the Central Virginia Continuum of Care has made strides in addressing Lynchburg’s homelessness rate over the past few years, members know more work needs to be done.
So, a group of more than a dozen continuum members met Tuesday to brainstorm ways to connect and collaborate with the city’s vast number of faith-based organizations.
Jim Meador, director of adult services for Human Kind and chair of the continuum’s board, said growing a relationship with faith-based organizations is in the continuum’s strategic plan, but little progress has been made toward the goal until now.
“In our own community … almost half of the [emergency] shelter beds are operated by faith-based organizations,” he said. “So we already have collaboration with faith-based organizations, but it’s just a small piece of what it could be and what could really benefit our community.”
Meador asked continuum members to provide input on several questions — such as the benefits of partnering with the faith community and how those organizations could assist with the homeless population — to help inform a path forward.
Dammy Onafowokan, homeless coordinator for Horizon Behavioral Health, said members of faith communities are naturally predisposed to want to provide assistance to those in need, but may not know the best way to do so.
Shawne Farmer, executive director of Interfaith Outreach Association agreed and emphasized the importance of building relationships to members of faith-based organizations. She said establishing trust through relationships can make a difference when working with homeless individuals.
Another benefit of collaborating with faith groups is maximizing resources and minimizing the chances of overlapping or duplicating services, according to Terrick Moyer, who serves as the director of operations for the Lighthouse Community Center of Lynchburg.
Meador asked the group what ways the faith community could assist them — financial, physical, relational or spiritual. Suggestions included physical needs such as coats and books as well as relational needs through mentoring and case management.
The next step, Meador said, is to figure out which faith-based organizations the continuum can collaborate with and set up a meeting to bring everyone to the table. Interested organizations can email him at, email@example.com.