PACEM Helping Homeless Find Independence - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

PACEM Helping Homeless Find Independence

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Some Charlottesville homeless are stepping out of shelters and into a place all their own. It's part of a new program in Charlottesville to help shorten shelter stays and get people back to living independently.

People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, or PACEM, has been finding shelter for more than 50 people a night this winter.

"We're still very full, I think that's nationwide," said PACEM's Executive Director Colleen Keller.

PACEM is now trying to move people past living in the shelters, with a pilot program called Rapid Re-Housing. PACEM received $30,000 in funding from the state for the program. The money goes toward helping people move into their own place by paying for things like security deposits, rent, and utilities for some of the men from the shelters.

Sena Magill is PACEM's homeless liaison, and she helps coordinate Rapid Re-Housing. She said there are a number of benefits for the individuals who participate.

"The first, of course, is having a place to call home," she said.

With stable housing, they are able to better secure jobs, build better relationships with friends and family, and gain more independence, she said.

So far, five men have moved into their new homes in a transitioning neighborhood in Charlottesville. They each have their own room and bathroom, and a shared community space. It's a chance for them to get back on their feet and start rebuilding their lives, said Keller.

"It's been incredible to see what it's done for them, and I think it inspired some belief in the shelter that it is possible to move forward," she said. Two of the five men will be coming off rental help, and will be able to now pay their own way. And when Magill checked on the apartments, she said all five were in great shape.

"Two months in and these five bachelors have all kept their apartments absolutely immaculate," she said.

Rapid Re-Housing is just a pilot program for PACEM for now. Keller said she hopes other organizations will be willing to become community partners to help with the program moving forward.

"It's a trial but we really hope it's the beginning of a community focus on moving people out of homelessness, not just long shelter stays," she said.

PACEM is also in need of more landlords who will grant housing to people from the shelters.

"Willing to work with someone who may have bad credit, may have a mistake in their past from the criminal system, but they're working, they're stable. They're able to go back into housing with help," she said.

Keller hopes five more people will be placed into a home in the next month or so.

"We're going to keep sheltering, that's what PACEM and the congregations do, but we're hoping for more energy in the belief that we can walk forward in the path," she said. "A path for every person... Not just a pillow."

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