In 2003, Charlottesville clergy and homeless advocates created PACEM after members of the Downtown Ministerial Alliance shared the experience of showing up for work in the morning and regularly finding homeless neighbors sleeping in the doorways.
The 2004 Homeless Census – conducted by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH )– supported the experience of the downtown clergy. Dozens of individuals were living in the streets, in the woods, in their cars, in abandoned buildings, behind garbage dumpsters, or around churches in the middle of winter. With a pressing need for shelter, the Downtown Ministerial Alliance and TJACH joined together. They gave their grassroots initiative the name PACEM – an acronym for People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, a word that also comes from the phrase for peace: Dona Nobis PACEM.
Based on a rotating shelter model from Richmond, PACEM opened during the winter of 2004. As we prepare for our 14th season this upcoming winter, PACEM has provided more than 96,000 total nights of shelter for people who are homeless in our community. Along the way, we have learned that homelessness is not simply “house”-lessness. To be homeless is to lack roots, ties to place, and a sense of belonging. Extending hospitality re-establishes this connection.* (Source: Richard Hopkins)
PACEM believes that a welcoming, safe place to shelter is the first step to addressing the crisis of homelessness. Sharing a compassion for our neighbors in crisis, we bring the members of nearly 80 congregations and groups together each winter to address the need for shelter in our community.