PACEM, Local Church Join Forces to House Homeless Community During Hurricane

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – A Charlottesville nonprofit is teaming up with First Presbyterian Church to make sure the homeless community will have shelter before Hurricane Florence arrives.

People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry (PACEM) is a nonprofit based in Charlottesville that helps provide shelter for homeless people during months of severe weather, and has made the decision to help out just ahead of Hurricane Florence.

“We’re able to offer them a place that’s going to be dry and safe from the weather, which is what most of us take for granted something like that,” Jayson Whitehead, the director of PACEM, said.

Basic shelter is not something most people think about when preparing for a hurricane.

“Virginia has called, actually, a state of emergency,” Whitehead said. “So part of being an emergency shelter, we’re basically all that our folks have, and so we stepped up to the challenge.”

The folks he’s referring to are the homeless community of Charlottesville.

Whitehead and PACEM are working to ensure that the homeless have a place to stay as Hurricane Florence hits the area.

“If you can just imagine, even as much rain we’ve had over summer, our folks have been dealing with the wet and this is a reprieve from that and especially during a storm or a threat of a storm like this,” Whitehead said.

“This is a need, this is a need,” Courtney Hester, a member of the homeless population, said. “I think people need to pay more attention to it.”

Hester says there’s a common misconception regarding the homeless community.

“Don’t think that because we’re homeless people that we’re uneducated, or that we’re stupid, or dumb or crazy, or whatever,” Hester said. “Most of us aren’t. Most of us are educated people. I have a degree, I have a bachelor’s degree.”

Hester hopes more people within the community will remember them during dangerous weather situations like this impending hurricane.

“Think about the homeless people, think about the situations,” Hester said. “We are not out here because we want to be.”

PACEM says during emergency situations like this one, it’s always happy to help.

“They receive a warm meal and a warm, dry safe place to sleep at night,” Whitehead said.

The nonprofit will be holding the emergency shelters on a day-to-day basis.