There’s a strong correlation between chronic homelessness and substance abuse problems. This presents itself as cruel irony to some homeless citizens in the area — of which there are approximately 175 in Central VA, in total — who find that they can gain access to the Salvation Army shelter if they’ve been drinking, but aren’t eligible to stay at the Mohr Center unless they’re drunk. It is to help those who fall between the two that People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry (PACEM) was founded
by local activist Dave Norris last year. They were open last year from November 15 through March 18, working with 36 congregations in the area to provide shelter in a season when sleeping outside could lead to serious illness or death.
PACEM opened a month early this year, thanks to increased support, and opened for service on the 15th, John Yellig reports in today’s Daily Progress. They’ve also gotten a pair of grants, one that is letting them expand into providing emergency shelter for women and children, and a second that will let them hire a caseworker.
The program seems to be working. A Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission survey taken last January reported a 40% drop in people who said that they couldn’t find any shelter, and a 61% drop in people who had difficulty finding shelter.
10/24 Update: Be sure to check out Dave Norris’ great comment explaining PACEM’s mission.