Shelter group: We want people to help people walk out of shelter, into self-sufficiency

Staff Writer

As the year nears its close, a religious group in Williamsburg celebrates its seventh year of helping the homeless with dignity and compassion.

Since 2012, the Community of Faith Mission’s consortium of more than 30 religious communities in Williamsburg has worked to provide three square meals a day and a place for homeless friends, neighbors and strangers to sleep, according to the mission’s director Christy Bennett.

In Bennett’s words, the organization strives to “help people when they need help.”

“It’s a huge volunteer effort from these faith communities,” Bennett said. “It gives people a place to be, to return to stability. It helps to bridge that gap until they can get into a more stable housing situation.”

Already this year the mission has housed 50 people in less than two months of operation, Bennett said.

For the 2017-2018 shelter season, volunteers worked more than 11,000 hours to ensure people without a place to sleep had one, Bennet said. That translates to more than 450 days of volunteer work.

The program also helps connect people with government services to help them out of homelessness.

Places of worship across Williamsburg make space inside their buildings to house as many as 25 people per night, according to the organization’s website.

For Pastor Fred Liggin, his flock decided to open the doors of the Williamsburg Christian Church several years before the Community of Faith Mission was founded.

“Our church was walking with people out of the shelter, out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency,” Liggin said.

When the group of churches and faith communities created the mission, Liggin’s flock volunteered to provide the shelter during the Christmas season for the first three years, he said.

“As a pastor, it didn’t make any sense to me (not to hold the shelter) when the true message of Christmas is that God loves everyone,” Liggin said. “No one deserves to be abandoned and alone. These things have to be more than just Christians getting their compassion on.”

Liggin said the Williamsburg Christian Church traded consumerism for compassion.

The impacts within the congregation were felt immediately, Liggin said.

“It has helped them see the humanity in all. It deepened and strengthened our spirit of generosity, our spirit of hospitality.”

For Liggin, the spirit of hospitality is not just a pleasantry, but a kinship between all of humanity; to not only receive love, but to give it without hesitation.

That love can help a family in hard circumstance recover, Bennett said.

“In addition to offering a safe and warm place, it shows emotional support because volunteers care. We get to know the guests who are with us. It shows people that you care as a person, and it helps to give them hope,” Bennett said.

How to help

The Community of Faith Mission constantly seeks new volunteers. For information about volunteer opportunities, email info@cofm.info. To donate to the organization, either send a check to Community of Faith Mission, P.O. Box 6357, Williamsburg, VA 23188 or at cofm.info/donate.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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