RICHMOND — In the Richmond area on any given day, there are at least 1,150 sheltered and unsheltered men, women and children experiencing homelessness. Bringing attention to issues surrounding affordable housing and encouraging professionals and volunteers to get involved with groups that support these causes was the focus of the second annual Affordable Housing Awareness Week, April 19-25.
Thirteen churches from the Central Virginia Baptist Ministries, a joint missions and ministry effort of Dover, Middle District and Richmond Baptist associations, partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help with construction of two homes in New Kent County on April 23 and 25. Groundbreaking for these homes had taken place in February and for the two days the CVBM volunteers were on-site they were able to install siding on one home and much of the roof was completed on the other. Both of the owners of these homes have young children and one was on-site working alongside volunteers on the construction of his home.
Participating churches included Atlee Community, Broadus Memorial, Mechanicsville and Walnut Grove churches in Mechanicsville; First, Lakeside, Monument Heights and Parham Road churches in Richmond; Dover Church in Manakin-Sabot; First Church in West Point; Friendship Church in Chesterfield; Hunton Church in Glen Allen; Pamunkey Church in King William; Sandston Church in Sandston; and Tomahawk Church in Midlothian.
Four churches provided bag lunches during the two-day project. Some of the lunches arrived with the build volunteers and others were delivered around noon by church members who were able to eat and share time with the workers. A variety of sandwiches were furnished by Parham Road, Dover, Lakeside and Monument Heights churches. Central Virginia Baptist Ministries provided snacks, water and sodas. On the final day the volunteers were surprised as the ladies from Walnut Grove Church arrived with tables and set up a buffet-style lunch.
Rhonda Beckner, a member of CVBM’s coordinating team, participated in a homeless simulation entitled, “Walk a Day in Their Shoes.” She was one of 21 volunteers grouped into teams of three who were given a profile of a person who becomes homeless with no job, no money and no family. The teams were dropped off at the Richmond Library with the task of finding affordable housing, aid through local agencies and food. “By the end of the day I was very discouraged,” says Rhonda, with a new awareness of the difficulties faced by the homeless.
According to Nita May, coordinator for regional ministries for CVBM, there are plans to participate in Affordable Housing Awareness Week in 2010.