‘Audrey’ lost her job in 2008 when her arthritic hands no longer allowed her to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She quickly lost her apartment. Ever since then Audrey has bounced around staying with friends and family while her application for disability winds slowly through the courts.
Audrey is homeless and living in Fuquay.
While not technically living on the streets Audrey is described as a “couch surfer” by some service providers. Those who work with homeless populations say there are many people like Audrey who are caught between their former productive lives and just surviving.
Some providers are working quietly in Fuquay-Varina to help all homeless individuals. Local activists and churches are joining the movement to respond more aggressively and help this vulnerable population.
Each January the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a count of homeless individuals for communities receiving federal grants for homeless services. Last month this “point-in-time count” Wake County initially identified 1,111 homeless individuals with 96 of those living on the streets. However, this count is not comprehensive and officials say it doesn’t include those who are in institutions, live in parking lots or live in emergency shelters or transitional housing.
Raleigh-based Church in the Woods founder Alice McGee says, however, there are no official recordings of homeless in southern Wake County. Having worked with the homeless and other compromised individuals for more than 35 years, McGee and her church, “find, engage and disciple the poorest of the poor,” including the physically and spiritually compromised.
In late January, Church in the Woods volunteers also identified 20 homeless individuals in the Fuquay area as part of their annual Homeless Count for the Department of HUD and for Wake County. In 2010 Church in the Woods volunteers began work in Fuquay-Varina by focusing on the Youngwood Apartments and surrounding area, and then worked at Lee’s Nursing Home.
That ministry is expanding. McGee said the recent homeless count in Fuquay is only part of the story.
“I’m sure there are many more (homeless individuals),” McGee said. “After the count we started a monthly meeting at West Jones Street Park. Others joined in to help.”
Now, Church in the Woods is partnering with Fuquay-Varina UMC and other churches and organizations.
“Fortunately public attitudes about homelessness are changing,” McGee said.” I’m (also) excited about the attitude changes in the body of Christ as well.”
First UMC in Fuquay-Varina has started a new ministry called “Love Thy Neighbor” as a response to people coming to the church building asking for food, clothing and financial assistance.
“We wanted to reach out beyond our church walls and help those in need in our community,” First UMC volunteer Dana Vaughn said. “We want to show the love of Christ to our neighbors.”
Church volunteers have delivered 100 packaged meals and a church bus full of clothing to the West Jones Street Park for lunch.
Other local churches are starting up similar ministries including New Hope Presbyterian Church, Piney Grove Baptist Church and Focus Church in Apex. Independently, Bazzel Creek Missionary Baptist Church started a Homeless Collaborative Initiative that will help provide a support circle program for local families.
And on Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. McGee is inviting the community to a workshop on “How to Help the Poor.” The program will address how to start helping the poor, what works and doesn’t work and the spiritual response to this problem. That meeting will be held at the Bob Barker Building at 134 North Main St. in Fuquay-Varina.
For more information on Church in the Woods and ways to get involved, go to www.churchinthewoods.net.