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Posted by: Liz Curtis, Executive Director, Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness

Across the state a revitalized effort is underway to work with faith communities in the effort to end homelessness. Today a group of faith-based organizations came together to talk about their successes in working with homeless service providers within the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness Regional Networks to End Homelessness. These efforts were made possible by the partnership of Episcopal City Mission and One Family, Inc. Representatives from 8 different regions shared their success in building upon faith communities’ great tradition of charity. Moving even beyond charity, these organizations believe in bringing about social justice in the form of permanent housing for the homeless.

One exciting example of this effort comes from Lowell where the Greater Lowell Interfaith Partnership to End Homelessness is working to develop a website that will educate people of faith about homelessness and mobilize them to take action. They hope this website will be live in April. In the meantime, you can log on to the site of one of their members – The SHIFT Coalition, which has been working to prevent or end homelessness since 2003. Another fantastic example comes from Worcester where the Interfaith Coalition to End Family Homelessness is working with a number of congregations to develop an “early warning system” that would identify families at-risk of homelessness before the crisis hits. They will focus on families accessing pastoral emergency funds and congregation-based food pantries and health clinics. The goal is to create a faith-based system to identify and help families at risk of becoming homeless, as well as to provide education and training for clergy and laity with web support.

The Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness has a distinct goal to engage all relevant stakeholders in the effort to end homelessness. What these faith-based organizations are doing serves as a wonderful example of how a real variety of people can identify roles they can play and make a real impact on homelessness. I would encourage everyone to consider how they can involve the groups and organizations they belong to in this broad effort. Do you belong to a faith community that would be willing to provide information about homelessness or help connect homeless individuals and families to community resources? Do you take part in other civic engagement or volunteer groups that would dedicate their time and energy to work with nonprofits linking people to permanent housing? Would you be willing to serve on the board on a nonprofit agency in your community that is working to end homelessness or hunger?

In 2008, the ICHH put together a civic engagement toolkit that you can find here.

This toolkit can help you think of other ways you and others in your community can be a part of the solution. Please share this with your friends, family, and colleagues this week to help raise awareness about hunger and homelessness and how we can each make a real difference.

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