Last April, C-VILLE met Josh Bare, a young man driven to change the fate of many homeless. A little over a year later, C-VILLE checks in with Bare to find out what he has been up to.
It is 10am on a Wednesday morning and Hope Center’s Josh Bare stands outside Downtown Athletic as a local TV news cameraman films a segment on Charlottesville’s “street soccer” team, a group of five homeless men and three international refugees who just returned from a national tournament in Washington D.C.
Josh Bare, Director of Hope Community Center, sits among notebooks that will be put in backpacks for students at Hope Community Center in Charlottesville.
“I can throw the ball so he’s catching it,” says Bare, the team’s manager, to the cameraman as the goalie pretends to dive on the concrete after it. The rest of the team watches and laughs. They are here for a press conference called by Bare to announce that one of the team’s members will be traveling to Milan, Italy, to play in the Street Soccer World Cup.
In many ways, this is an archetypal Josh Bare event. TV cameras are whirring and he is dressed the part, in faded jeans and cowboy boots with his red hair combed into a customary small shark fin. A master of publicity, Bare estimates he has been on local TV news more than 25 times in the last year and a half, and it’s easy to tell that he enjoys the exposure.
The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Bare is also deeply religious. “If God didn’t want me here I wouldn’t be here,” he says. “I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” What keeps Bare from being an Elmer Gantry-like figure, though, is that he actually helps people in the process. While something like a homeless soccer team sounds funny, it does give a different picture than the public is used to seeing. “You’re able to see these men functioning just like a real person,” Bare says. “They’re not on the corner panhandling.”
More than 15 months since the city shut down the Hope Center’s homeless shelter—which opened in December 2007—for zoning violations, Bare is still searching for ways—like street soccer—to serve their ever-increasing population. After conducting a clothing drive in December, he has recently hosted a series of Meet Your Neighbor events in neighborhood parks each Saturday. “If Hope can be seen as a community leader then middle class Charlottesville will trust us in taking care of the poor,” he says.
Bare also announced earlier this year that he was looking for a site to build a permanent homeless shelter, and that he had a benefactor to financially support its construction, but the project seems dormant for now. Most significantly, in March, Hope’s day shelter, known as Hope Village, was extended to five days a week from its previous three. Every Monday through Friday, from 8am to noon, the two-building complex behind Venable Elementary provides showers, a washer and dryer, and a computer room to 25 to 30 homeless and otherwise unemployed people.
In the courtyard of Hope Center, there are a few people smoking and drinking coffee, probably only because Bare is at the press conference across town. If he were here, he would be in the courtyard telling his guests to work on their resume, or taking them to a job fair. “We’ll point them in a direction,” Bare says. “We pray to God that they find work and we assume they do because they don’t come back.”
Or Bare’s prodding could simply have pushed them elsewhere, to the library or out into the streets. “People who come in either love me and Hope, or they hate us,” he says. “We will help you but you have to help yourself. We’ll reach out our hand but you’ll have to take it. We’ll encourage you but you’re going to have to step up on your own.”
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