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In 2004, a collection of interfaith congregations came together to host the growing homeless population in Charlottesville. Calling themselves PACEM (Latin for “peace” as well as the acronym for a very long name), the group that provides rotating shelter at various church buildings has now put up more than 150 homeless a winter—from early November through mid-March—including a high of 237 last year.
While our area’s homeless numbers climbed for the sixth straight year, PACEM’s numbers were actually down. This year they only housed 166, their second lowest total since their inception.
“Part of the reason was because we had another shelter doing the same work,” says PACEM’s Guest Advocate/Volunteer Coordinator Adriana Nicholson, stating a commonly held perception among their ranks.
It is one that Hope’s Harold Bare does not share. “If they pick up and we come later how are we doubling?” he asks, pointing to the period after mid-March when PACEM closed and Hope continued to operate. “The idea that we’re infringing is a level of communication we don’t relate to.”
“If we are, then let’s dialogue, because we don’t want to own this,” the pastor says. From PACEM’s perspective, Hope could be of more use if they concentrated on providing shelter to families, which they already do in a limited form. Right now, there are three children staying at Hope with their mother.
Of course, PACEM’s decreased numbers could be explained in part by their successes. Over the last few years, the group has helped at least 10 people find permanent shelter. “There are folks we did not see this year,” says Nicholson, “because they’re not out on the streets.”