Program helps homeless make lifestyle transition

The People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry organization has received state funds to start up a new program to help Charlottesville’s homeless community adjust from living in shelters to independent living.

“This is a program to help people stay in a shelter for four to six weeks at a time, then move to an apartment,” said Colleen Keller, Executive Director of PACEM. “Instead of putting them in a shelter for months, you put them in a house and work with them to make sure they don’t come back.”

To remain in the apartments the program participants have to adhere to several conditions, including maintaining a clean apartment and paying rent, Keller said.

“We check on them, and we give them someone to talk to, to see how to make a budget … and more,” Keller said. “We give them a network to talk to for help. When you leave a shelter you’re normally done, but here we are trying to help them move back into the community.”

Although the program is relatively small at the moment, Keller said the program’s focus on long-term improvement has yielded promising results.

“We’ve helped five [homeless people], and we’re probably going to help five in the spring,” Keller said. “To give it perspective, we have 50 to 55 people in our shelters every night … If we could help 10 or 12 people [per year,] that will be incredible.”

—compiled by Andrew D’Amato

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