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[November 16, 2012]
Longmont churches discuss homeless issues
LONGMONT, Nov 16, 2012 (Daily Times-Call - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- When it comes to addressing homelessness, the faith community is often on the front lines.
While many churches offer services and support programs that help the homeless, the Longmont Housing Opportunities Team has found that collaboration between individual churches doesn't always happen.
So on Thursday, LHOT hosted a dialogue with about 30 people representing more than a dozen churches in Longmont. Mostly, the event served as a space for church leaders to network and share ideas. LHOT members answered questions about services, the city's homeless population and the role faith communities can play in the process of moving people to self-sufficiency.
"This year, what we wanted to try to do is talk to members of the faith community who we know are serving a lot of people in need," said Kathy Fedler, the city's affordable-housing program coordinator and a member of LHOT's steering committee.
The conversation also helps LHOT identify gaps in services, said John Rostykus, the faith community representative on LHOT's steering committee.
LHOT typically hosts an event each November to address issues in homelessness.
Rick Ebbers of The Journey Church of Longmont said he had "a taste" of what other churches were doing, but Thursday's event provided more information. For example, The Journey had considered opening an evening food bank, he said, and he learned Thursday that Calvary Church hosts a weekly evening food bank on Thursdays.
The Rev. Gary Jefferson of Front Range Christian Fellowship runs faith-based nonprofit Agape Family Services, which operates a warming center in inclement weather. Once the OUR Center closes its warming center at the end of the year, Agape will run the only warming center in Longmont, and Jefferson said he's looking for churches to partner with, both to house people and to supply volunteers.
Raising awareness is half the battle. Although Agape has housed the homeless for six years, "a lot of people in the community say they had no idea we were doing this," Jefferson said.
A growing number of churches has taken an interest in serving the homeless over the past decade. Part of that, OUR Center executive director Edwina Salazar said, has evolved from a realization that collaboration is needed to address the issue. And, for many, homelessness has hit home.
"It brings it home to many congregations when they have a number of people in their congregation who are struggling," she said.
Magdalena Wegrzyn can be reached at 303-684-5274 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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