A ‘great opportunity’
Vogel: ‘Real crises make great leaders’
December 22, 2009
Though their philosophies of governance are diametrically opposite, we could not help but notice the similarities in the responses of presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel to the notion of administrations beginning amidst crisis. In Mr. Emanuel’s case, that crises present great opportunities. In Mrs. Vogel’s, likewise — but also that “real crises can make great leaders” and “tough times demand bold statements.”
In Mrs. Vogel’s mind, as in many others’, there’s no question that Virginia faces a fiscal crisis, one made all the more daunting by the state’s gnawing needs, most principally in the transportation arena.
Of two verities Mrs. Vogel is certain, the first being that money to both balance the budget and “keep the lights on” in the State Capitol must come from somewhere. And, following a number of trips across the top of the state, the second is this: that voters are angry — about proposed cuts to higher education, road woes (“Fix transportation or be fired”), and the prospect of their taxes going up. “It’s an awful place to be,” she told us last week of the upcoming General Assembly session, “but it also presents an awesome opportunity.”
You see, amidst that anger, Mrs. Vogel also sensed a yearning for solutions — new solutions to old problems — and therein lies, in her opinion, Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell’s potential for greatness.
Restructuring government in his conservative image, enacting agency reform, revamping VDOT, even privatizing the ABC stores — all present themselves as possibilities in a fluid political environment to a man extended an unmistakable mandate by state voters.
But, before any such initiatives can leave the station on what Mrs. Vogel calls a “parallel track,” Mr. McDonnell must get Virginia’s fiscal house in order, which will be the subject of Wednesday’s extended editorial chat with our state senator.
8 churches will offer haven to area's homeless
Shelter project will start Jan. 4
December 07, 2009
By F.C. Lowe - The Winchester Star
Winchester — The area’s homeless population will be granted a reprieve for the months of January and February with a new temporary shelter.
Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) will begin Jan. 4 and continue through March 1 in eight area churches, which will each host one week at a time.
“This is a last resort for those who may not be accommodated at other shelters,” said David Witt, pastor of Opequon Presbyterian Church in Kernstown.
The shelter is needed because of the increase in the homeless population and other shelters reach capacity in the winter months, Witt added.
WATTS grew out of two groups — the downtown clergy and faith-based groups from the city and county, said Dan McCoig, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Winchester and president of the downtown clergy organization.
This is not an original idea in Virginia, according to organizers. One of the closest temporary shelters is in Harrisonburg, McCoig said. “We want to make sure nobody freezes on our streets.”
While no definitive numbers area available for the homeless population, Joseph Shtulman, president/CPO of United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley, included the following homeless population information in his Community Profile Report: “On any given night, approximately 0.3 percent of the population is homeless. This equates to around 450 individuals in the area of Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, and Shenandoah counties.
“Our local shelters are stretched and the church-sponsored initiative will be much needed to serve those unable to access other shelter care,” he added.
He also noted that in this economy, there is a phenomenon of more homeless young families who aren’t getting picked up in the national statistics. “They are living with friends and family, sleeping in cars, and not going to social agencies. They are trying to make it on their own.”
Informing the public
Informing the public has been a goal of the shelter organizers, who are seeking a 501c3 nonprofit status, so that no one is surprised about the project and to find others who want to help.
“Our FAQ sheet and an accompanying ‘up-to-date’ information was mailed to over 30 community partners and agencies over two weeks ago,” Witt said. “Groups included fire and rescue, law enforcement, Social Service departments, and many others who have volunteered to help us with many tasks.”
Some concern has been expressed by parents at a preschool operated by one of the shelter’s hosts, the First Presbyterian Church on the Loudoun Street Mall in Winchester.
Tara Shifflett of Winchester has two daughters in the program but is not a member of the church. When she received information, she was disturbed by the types of people the shelter may accept — “those with alcohol and drug addiction and sex offenders,” according to the literature distributed by WATTS.
“I believe people do need a place to stay but couldn’t resources be provided by other churches so it would not be in the same place as a preschool?” she said. “I don’t have to have my children in that environment.”
The shelter will operate from 7 p.m to 7 a.m. so that it will not interfere with the regular church programs, Witt explained.
“Our number one concern is for the safety and security of the churches and volunteers,” Witt said. “There is no overlap and there will be no children present either staying in the shelter or serving as volunteers.”
Erica Truban of Winchester, who is affiliated with the church, is also concerned for her 4-year-old who attends the preschool. The possibility of registered sex offenders being housed is her main concern, not the program itself.
“We spend time trying to protect our child,” she said. “I would feel 100 percent comfortable if this group would be dropped.”
The parents have the support of Art Major, a Winchester City Council member.
“Their hearts (shelter organizers) are in the right place, but my responsibility is to all the citizens to provide a safe environment,” he said.
A meeting was held recently to address the concerns and another will be held this week, McCoig said. “There were expressions of support for the ministry,” he said. ”There were also expressions of serious reservations as well as objections.”
He reinforced that this is an emergency shelter of last resort — keeping persons out of the coldest weather during the overnight hours. “In one sense WATTS is ‘death prevention.’”
“We don’t want anyone consumed with fear,” Witt added, and said the concerns will be addressed and the program will be even better because of them.
Shelter organizers are reaching out to other programs for guidance and direction as well as to the community for assistance.
“We have consulted with others and are learning from them,” McCoig added.
Jimmy DeMartinis, daily operations director for the Union Rescue Mission in Winchester, calls the temporary shelter a good idea. “We absolutely need another way to help people get back on their feet and become a responsible functioning member of society,” he said.
One of the four mission’s programs is providing temporary shelter and serves adult males over the age of 18 and usually houses about 30 a night.
“If we are full, we have to turn people away for the night, but we give them food,” he said.
As far as using churches, he said that is a good idea since the homeless will be around Christians.
Major Dan Turner, corps officer of The Salvation Army, calls the temporary shelter a good thing that will draw attention to the need for housing in the community.
His facility has a 48-bed capacity and in the winter months will have an overflow of about 20 to 25 people.
He has advised the organizers of the temporary program and is excited about it. “It’s all good but just a first step.”
The WATTS shelter will accommodate about 20 to 25 people a night, men or women ages 18 and older.
Eight churches will host and partner churches will help staff the shelter, prepare meals, provide transportation and personal care, and make financial contributions.
Supplies and cots will be owned by WATTS and moved from church to church each week, Witt explained.
Habitat for Humanity will provide a truck to move the items, Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury will provide linens and laundry service, C-CAP will house the supplies during the off season, according to organizers. State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, is providing legal expertise.
Marc Roberson, pastor of Welltown United Methodist Church, explained that they are working with city officials and state and city police for advice on procedures as well as working with existing agencies and food banks.
“People are coming together, Roberson said. “They have stepped up and this is bringing people together.”
Work in progress
Pat Konschak, a member of the planning group, is helping with numerous aspects of the project including procuring supplies.
“This is a work in progress and we would like to include as many people as desire to be part of this greatly needed effort,” he said.
The planning began at the beginning of 2009, according to McCoig, and continued with a work group of 12 lay and clergy members that meets periodically to hash out details.
“In mid-September, we were afraid we couldn’t get it going and then it started to come together,” McCoig said.
The staff will include one paid manager to stay up all night. The rest will be volunteers.
The host church will provide shelter seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m with an evening meal and a light breakfast served.
Fran Ricketts, director of The Congregational-Community Action Project, said her organization has been on board since day one.
“I’ve seen the need for more than eight years. It’s been a long time coming,” she said.
She predicts the program will start off slowly since the homeless are usually skeptical and used to being on their own.
An example is the soup kitchen run weekly by the Knights of Columbus on Cameron Street that has been in operation for at least 10 years.
“They started with three people and now it is up to about 100 people,” she said.
C-CAP, 112 S. Kent St. will serve as the pickup and drop-off site for the eight weeks for those seeking shelter.
“This is such a loving, giving community that the shelter will grow and maybe start sooner next winter,” she added.
And Witt agrees, “We are starting small, but expect it to grow in the future.”
What you should know
Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter participants will be transported by van from the C-CAP office at 112 S. Kent St. in Winchester to temporary shelters set up at these churches:
* Opequon Presbyterian (213 Opequon Church Lane, Kernstown), Jan. 4 to 11
* First Presbyterian (116 S. Loudoun St., Winchester), Jan. 11 to 18
* Grace Evangelical Lutheran (26 W. Boscawen St., Winchester), Jan. 18 to 25
* Braddock Street United Methodist (115 Wolfe St., Winchester), Jan. 25 to Feb. 1
* Stephens City United Methodist (5291 Main St.), Feb. 1 to 8
* Christ Episcopal (114 W. Boscawen St., Winchester), Feb. 8 to 15
* Sunnyside Presbyterian (1270 N. Frederick Pike), Feb. 15 to 22
* First Baptist Church (205 W. PIccadilly St., Winchester), Feb. 22 to March 1.