Charlottesville Group Holds Round Table on Homelessness

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Thousands gathered at John Paul Jones Arena for a round-table discussion of homelessness in Charlottesville. Thousands gathered at John Paul Jones Arena for a round-table discussion of homelessness in Charlottesville.

The fight to combat chronic homelessness took center stage at John Paul Jones Arena Monday night.

It marked a big commitment from all the major players who work on the issue. The goal is to have a major progress report by this time next year.

IMPACT has made a difference in a number of issues since its inception and now, homelessness is the target.

It was a unanimous vote from those on a mission to curb homelessness.

"I have been called to minister and provide relief to the misfits, the rejects and the outcasts because I can't forget that once I was one of them," said Sarah Kelley, who used to be homeless.

IMPACT - an interfaith organization and social issue advocate - pressed Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville to convene and facilitate a round table to reduce homelessness. 

"I truly believe a new day is dawning, a renewal in a collective effort to reduce homelessness in Charlottesville," said Maurice Jones, Charlottesville city manager.

IMPACT says the roundtable should achieve seven goals. Among them: leverage state and federal money earmarked for homeless programs, develop information-sharing agreements for service referrals and establish a timeline. 

"The county will continue its commitment to support efforts which improve the quality of life for all citizens," said Ron White, chief of housing for Albemarle County. 

Organizers say those goals will make an impact on providing a new beginning for some 500 children in the area and 200 adults currently sleeping on the streets. 

"We are compelled by the truth that every faith believes in justice and if we work together more can be done and a stronger community can be built," said Colleen Keller, executive director of PACEM, an organization that works to provide shelter for the homeless. 

IMPACT also asked both the University of Virginia and Martha Jefferson Hospital to sponsor a comprehensive job-training program. IMPACT estimates some 3,000 people between the ages of 16 and 30 are unemployed in this area right now.

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