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Interfaith Forum Offered Faith Community Best Practices in Addressing Homelessness

The faith community has been the cornerstone of the effort to end homelessness in Virginia Beach for several decades. At the Interfaith Alliance at the Beach’s (IAB) first interfaith forum, faith organizations had the opportunity to network and hear strategies for strengthening their role and effectiveness in the community-wide effort.

On March 15 more than 100 attendees, 22 houses of faith, and 14 nonprofit organizations who shared the common goal of wanting to end homelessness gathered at New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ for the IAB's Interfaith Forum, “Moving from Charity to Change: Effective Strategies for Ending the Cycle of Homelessness.”

Tracy Flaherty-Willmott, associate director of OrgCode, Inc., shared how faith organizations can help homeless families and individuals today, and also how they can actively assist them through their journey to being housed, increasing stability, and reintegrating into society. One of the ways faith communities can support and encourage previously homeless persons after being housed is by making sure they take steps to stay housed independently.

A major focus of the forum was how communities can transition to a Housing First model, an approach to homeless assistance based on the philosophy that every citizen has a right to housing.

The forum also included a panel discussion of BEACH members representing the faith community and nonprofit service providers. Todd Walker, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, Jennifer Vaughan of Potter’s House, and Kay Bess of VBFEST (Family Emergency Shelter Team)/BEACH Closet shared their experience, successes, and challenges with incorporating Housing First strategies in their organizations.

The event concluded with a networking resource fair that included faith communities, City departments, and nonprofit organizations who provided information on the services they offer.