Closing The Gap

HARTS Looks To Get People Off The Streets For Good

Posted: November 21, 2012

Artie Frederick, a volunteer with the Harrisonburg And Rockingham Thermal Shelter, serves Evelyn Vannest a sloppy Joe with coleslaw on Sunday at Asbury United Methodist Church. This year the seasonal shelter is expanding its program with an initiative that aims to get people off the streets for good. (Photos by Michael Reilly)
Zac Leatherwood, 19, Michael Campbell, 48, and Richard Entsminger, 56, watch TV before the evening meal Sunday.
Clients and volunteers with Harrisonburg And Rockingham Thermal Shelter pray before dinner Sunday night at Asbury United Methodist Church.
HARRISONBURG — HARTS started out six years ago as a seasonal shelter for homeless people who couldn’t get into another facility.

Now, officials with the Harrisonburg And Rockingham Thermal Shelter are looking to expand their mission with a year-round program aimed at getting people off the streets for good.

HARTS pools resources with religious organizations and other groups to provide shelter during the coldest months for people who, for one reason or another, can’t get into other local facilities.

It opened for the season earlier this month and will run through April at various locations in the Harrisonburg area on a rotating, weekly schedule.

The organization’s latest initiative, Moving In New Directions, or MINDS, will provide assistance to people who are “ready and willing to become permanently housed,” said Brooke Rodgers, executive director of HARTS.

“This program will have trained volunteer navigators who will assist individuals in budgeting, locating an apartment, learning how to become a good tenant, and then helping them navigate the social services that are provided for them here but that they have not been able to access because of the stress that comes with being homeless,” she said.

Volunteers are being trained and will begin working with people staying at HARTS in January, Rodgers said.

MINDS will operate year-round out of an office provided by LD&B Insurance.

“We have a triage system to help determine who’s ready in this program to [get a permanent home],” she said. “Helping people who are chronically homeless to become independent is a long process.”

Lacy Whitmore, a former HARTS board member whose term expired earlier this year, said the need for services for the homeless continues to outpace resources, and MINDS should help close the gap.

An annual homeless survey conducted in January found the local population was 159, an increase of 44 from the previous year but down from 163 in 2010.

“I’m happy to see that the HARTS organization is moving into not only meeting the immediate basic human need of shelter, but really looking at ways to attack some of the root causes of that,” said Whitmore, executive director of the Harrisonburg Rockingham Community Services Board.

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com


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