I, too, attended the meeting at Antioch Church on Nov. 13 that addressed the needs of our homeless in Shenandoah County. I was impressed that 137 individuals representing 42 congregations and organizations were in attendance!
Having volunteered at the Free Clinic and the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, I can attest to the needs of the homeless in our county. To drive past a family sitting at the curb near Walmart and give them several dollars, or donate some canned goods to a local food pantry, are good actions, but more needs to be done. According to Kerry Keihn of the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, they receive a hundred requests per week for assistance. Also, she stated that in January 2013 that the Northern Shenandoah Valley had at least 78 households listed as homeless -- the exact count was thought to be much higher.
Family Promise, a nonprofit Christian organization, has helped change the lives of homeless in 41 states for 25 years. I believe that if we don't involve an outside group that has been successful in helping homeless families, then we in Shenandoah County will continue to believe the problem is not as severe as it really is. While this program cannot be implemented immediately, the county needs to establish a long-term solution for homeless families.
Family Promise provided informational handouts that explained how they operate. For example, if 13 churches are involved, each participating church would be responsible in assisting the homeless for four weeks out of a year. Yes, there are many questions that will come to mind about taking on this responsibility. Given that Family Promise has been in operation for 25 years, they have the experience that enables them to answer our questions and advise us how to proceed and have a successful program.
Family Promise's mission is based on Matthew 25. I encourage you to reread that chapter in your Bible. If you are moved to try to help those in need, I attend the next meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Woodstock.
Alice Holden, Woodstock