Local Shelters Opening Emergency Services with Frigid Temps

The IFC Community House will open its doors for emergency shelter once again on Tuesday night with temperatures expected to drop to the low-20’s or upper teens overnight.

The Durham Rescue Mission also has provided emergency shelter this week with below-freezing temperatures.

The Community House is now located at 1315 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

Homeless men in Orange County seeking shelter can call the Community House at (919) 967-1086 before four o’clock in the afternoon to sign up for a space. Those seeking shelter can also arrive at the Community Kitchen at 100 West Rosemary Street at six o’clock to eat dinner and be transported to the shelter.


Remembering the Homeless

Hymns were sung and prayers were read as members of the Inter-Faith Council gathered on Monday to remember the homeless who died in the past year.

The gathering took place at the Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill. The ceremony was short but powerful. A list of names of those who died struggling with homelessness in the past year was read.

Afterwards participants enjoyed hummus and falafel as they shared why they came. “We are here to honor to lives of those who have died because of homelessness, to recall their humanity and recall that they were created in the divine image,” said Jen Feldman, Rabbi at Kehillah Synagogue. She was one of the organizers of the event.

The memorial was held on the winter solstice to mark the longest night of the year. The cold winter months are difficult for the homeless community and services during this season often become strained.

The Inter-Faith Council works with the homeless in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The Community House on Martin Luther King Boulevard is the focus of this work. The Community House opened in September and replaced the former IFC center on Rosemary Street.

The Community House hosts up to 52 men in long-term programs, as well as emergency housing when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. The IFC also sponsors the program, Homestart, which helps homeless women and children in the area.

A rise in the cost of living in Chapel Hill over the last decade has put more pressure on the homeless, according to Mike Reinke, executive director of Inter-Faith Council.

“Housing prices have gone up, which means that rental prices have gone up,” said Reinke, “which means that if you’re on a fixed income, if you’re working part-time or only able to find seasonally work then you’re not able to find housing.”

In addition to simple things like making donations, Reinke offered some more ideas on how to help the homeless.

“What do we need to do as a community? We need to do advocacy to talk about how important it is that everybody in our community is supported, healthy and strong,” said Reinke.

“[Those] whose stories often times are forgotten, they disappear, and we don’t want anyone to disappear,” said Reinke. “Our community is stronger as the sum of its parts, not just the parts that we see that look pretty but all of us together. Hopefully today we have a slightly stronger community and a better community.”


Participating RSVVP Day Restaurants

RSVVP means “Restaurants Sharing 10 Percent.”  The Vs are Roman Numerals.  Participating restaurants contribute 10 percent of their total proceeds on RSVVP Day to benefit the IFC FoodFirst food programs: Food Pantry and Community Kitchen.

This year’s RSVVP Day is Tuesday, November 10, 2015.  Over 100 restaurants are participating.

In 2014, more than $26,000 was raised on RSVVP Day.

Participating RSVVP Day Restaurants

2nd Wind
411 West
ACME Food & Beverage
Akai Hana
Alfredo’s Pizza Villa
Al’s Burger Shack
Amante Gourmet Pizza – Carrboro
Amante Gourmet Pizza – Falconbridge
Armadillo Grill
Bagel Bar (The)
Bandido’s Mexican Cafe – Chapel Hill
Bandido’s Mexican Cafe – Hillsborough
Bin 54 Steak & Cellar
Blue Horn Lounge (The)
Bread & Butter Bakery Cafe
Cafe Parizade – Durham
Caffe Driade
Captain John’s Dockside Fish & Crab House
Carolina Club (The)
Carolina Coffee Shop
Carrboro Pizza Oven
Chick-fil-A at University Mall
City Kitchen
Crook’s Corner
Crossroads at the Carolina Inn
Daily Grind Espresso Cafe
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – Durham
Domino’s Pizza – Banks Drive
Domino’s Pizza – Carrboro
Domino’s Pizza – Fordham Boulevard
Elaine’s on Franklin
Elmo’s Diner
Fiesta Grill
Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub
Franklin Hotel (Roberts Lounge)
Friends’ Cafe
Gourmet Kingdom
Guanajuato Mexican Restaurant
Hickory Tavern
Hunam Chinese
Il Palio at the Siena
Jade Palace Chinese & Seafood Restaurant
Jersey Mike’s Subs – Chapel Hill North
Jersey Mike’s Subs – Elliott Road
Joe Van Gogh – Chapel Hill
Joe Van Gogh – Durham
K&W Cafeteria
Kalamaki Greek Street Food
Kipos Greek Taverna
La Hacienda
La Residence
La Vita Dolce Espresso & Gelato Cafe
Linda’s Bar & Grill
Local 22 Kitchen & Bar
Loop Pizza Grill (The)
Lucha Tigre
Mama Dip’s Kitchen
Margaret’s Cantina
Mediterranean Deli, Bakery & Catering
Mellow Mushroom
Mint Indian Cuisine
Mixed Casual Korean Bistro
Nantucket Grill & Bar – Farrington Road
Nantucket Grill & Bar – Sutton Station
Nasher Museum Café – Durham
Neal’s Deli
Neo-China – Durham
Oasis in Carr Mill
Oishii Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Open Eye Cafe
Orange County Social Club
Pantana Bob’s
Pita Grill Homemade Mediterranean Cuisine
Queen of Sheba’s
Red Bowl Asian Bistro
Root Cellar (The)
Sage Vegetarian Cafe
Sal’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant
Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar
Steel String Craft Brewery
Subway – Franklin St.
Subway – Glenwood Square
Subway – Timberlyne
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
Thai Palace
The Egg & I
The Pig
Top of the Hill
Town Hall Grill
Tru Deli + Wine
Tyler’s Taproom – Carrboro
Vespa Ristorante
Village Burgers
Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe
Weathervane at Southern Season
Weaver Street Market – Carrboro
Weaver Street Market – Hillsborough
Weaver Street Market – Southern Village
Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe

Carrboro Debates IFC’s Plan To Relocate Community Kitchen

The Inter-Faith Council is in the process of splitting up its Community Kitchen and Men’s Shelter. The new transitional housing facility has opened on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill, and now, IFC leaders are looking to relocate the Community Kitchen to West Main Street in Carrboro, to share space with the food pantry on that site.

Tuesday’s discussion in the topic by the Board of Aldermen began with a dry dissection of zoning and land use, but quickly shifted to a heated debate on how best to help those in need while addressing the worries of nearby business owners.

“I found it really offensive, the way it says ‘Diners shall be instructed to disperse from the property after exiting.’ That’s disgusting,” said Randee Haven-O’Donnell, responding to a proposed regulation in the land use ordinance designed to keep crowds from loitering outside the kitchen after meals. “It’s one thing to say we have to feed hungry people, but if we’re not going to be fully consistent with how folks need to be respected and given dignity, we’re failing.”

The Community Kitchen serves free food to anyone who’s hungry. According to the IFC, between 75 and 125 people eat lunch or dinner at their current facility. Lunch is served for an hour and 15 minutes. Dinner lasts just 45 minutes.

Town staffers say the volume of guests arriving and departing in such a short time poses planning challenges. They put forward a land use plan that calls for a crowd management plan, as well as stipulations requiring security personnel, additional lighting, and more trash cans.

Alderwoman Bethany Chaney opposed these constraints, saying they stigmatize those in need.

“What I’m afraid that we are doing by making a very expansive change or addition to the land use ordinance here, is making bad policy that will victimize people further,” said Chaney.

Several on the board chastised town planners for catering to what they deemed baseless fears.

But Alderwoman Jacquie Gist pushed back. She says she’s heard from many business owners in Carrboro worried about the relocation of the Community Kitchen, and she urged her peers not to downplay those concerns.

“What we do, is we look for ways to make it work, without blaming the person who’s worried, very justifiably, about the impact on their business or their home,” said Gist. “We don’t say, ‘Oh, you’re making unfair assumptions.’ No, they’re not. They are based on reality, and we’ve got to address that stuff up front.

I’m asking some of these questions because of the citizens of Carrboro who have come to me and said, ‘These are things I’m worried about and I’m scared to ask them because somebody’s going to think I’m a jerk.’ We have got to have a way to have this conversation without people being judged.”

All agreed the community needs a chance to weigh in. Board members say they don’t want to see Carrboro’s process become as polarized and negative as Chapel Hill’s year-long battle to approve a site for the IFC’s new Men’s Shelter.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle offered an olive branch to board members on both sides.

“I think really, folks, we’re all a lot closer than it seems right now,” said Lavelle. “Everyone here has good intentions. Everyone here wants to find a way to move this forward and have this community conversation.”

The board voted 5-2 to send the ordinance back to town staff for revision, with Gist and Haven-O’Donnell opposed.

The revision will come back to the board for comment. Once the land use plan is approved, the IFC will likely move forward with a request to rezone the site on West Main Street.


IFC Community House To Focus On Permanent Housing For OC’s Homeless

With the opening of the new Community House, the Inter-Faith Council hopes to change how Orange County helps the homeless.

“I believe that architecture reflects how we live our lives, and if we can design a building helps people move to where they want to go, there’s a much better chance that they’ll be able to take those steps and be successful,” says IFC Executive Director Michael Reinke, talking about the new facility that will house 52 men while they transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

“They’ll be working a plan. Everybody will have a plan to say, ‘How am I going to get to a point where I can have permanent housing?’ or ‘I can be living on my own.’ For some folks than might be as short as a couple of weeks or a month. For some that may take as long as a year.”

As clients move through the program and meet progress goals, they’ll get rewarded with more personal space and autonomy. At the start, men will stay in dorms with seven other residents, but by the time they graduate, they’ll be sharing a room with just one roommate and have access to semi-private showers. Reinke notes progress comes with other perks as well.

“When you get to stage three, you get the key to the room,” explains Reineke. “Certainly staff will also have a key, but having that ownership, having to say ‘OK, this is the place where I stay,’ is a significant incentive.”

To get to stage three, residents must work on resumes, job counseling, vocational training, housing plans and health needs. Reinke says the facility was designed with those multiple goals in mind.

“I’ve seen shelters in at least five or six different states, and I’ve probably visited close to 200. I’ve never actually seen a shelter that has a medical clinic housed within the actual shelter, so this is pretty amazing from my perspective.”

There’s also a library, a fitness room, and a separate bathroom for transgender clients.

“As far as we know, we are the only shelter that has a bathroom for people who identify as transgender, so we are incredibly pleased to be able to offer that to Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” says Reinke.

Those amenities are made possible by community partnerships. The medical and dental clinics will be staffed by doctors, nurses and dentists from Piedmont Health. The fitness equipment was donated by the Carol Woods retirement community, and the State Employees Credit Union Foundation donated $1 million dollars to kick off construction of the building as a whole. In addition, individuals volunteer time and skills for everything from meal preparation to job counseling.

Reinke says the new location is a big improvement on the current Men’s Shelter at the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets.

“The old municipal building was designed to be a court house; it was designed to be a town hall; it was designed to be a jail at one point. It was never designed to be doing laundry for 50-70 indiviual at any given time, never mind making meals for up to 200 people on any given day.”

The new space off Homestead Road also means the organization will take a different approach to housing the homeless, focusing on transitional housing more than immediate shelter. The old location doubled as an emergency shelter where homeless men could drop in as needed, but at the new Community House, only residents enrolled in the program will stay there on a regular basis. There’s space for 17 drop-ins during periods of extreme cold weather, but that’s all.

Former Executive Director John Dorward says the IFC will be looking to other community partners to step up this winter when the temperature drops.

“Last winter we averaged over 20 people per night,” says Dorward. “Normally that would be enough, but a couple of the shelters in Durham have cut back a little on what they will do on emergency or ‘white flag’ nights. So there may be some times when there are extra people. We’re not quite sure how that will be handled yet, but we’re sure the community will step up and we’ll find a way to handle that.”

Those 17 emergency beds were a major point of contention when the IFC sought approval for the new site from the Town Council. Neighbors worried the shelter would draw crime to the area, and that those turned away from the shelter would stay in nearby parks instead. Reinke says the IFC has been working to build relationships with neighbors. The organization has set up a hotline to respond to any reported problems.

If you’d like to take a look at the long-awaited facility, the ribbon-cutting for the new Community House is Monday, September 21 at 8 a.m., followed by a reception and open house. Reinke says everyone is invited.

“I have never seen a building that has the kind of resources that we’ll be able to offer here at the Community House. You’re going to see all the things that you would hope for in a shelter; you’ll see bright rooms with lots of windows. But you’ll also see some really amazing things that will help provide people the resources they need to get back on their feet for permanent housing.”

You can find out more here.


Retiring IFC Director Praises Replacement: ‘Much More Qualified’

The executive director of a Chapel Hill organization dedicated to providing shelter and other services to those in need is passing the mantle to a new leader next month.

John Dorward served as executive director of the the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service for the past two years, after working with the organization for more than a decade. He’s rightfully proud of the SECU Community House – a homeless shelter for men – that will officially open in Chapel Hill in late September.

“One of the first things that I started working on when I came here – I’m on my 13th year now – was coming up with a new space, and being able to actually build a men’s shelter for the first time,” said Dorward.

Dorward said he’s proud that IFC has made it through the recent recession without cutting services. If anything, he said, the numbers of people served by IFC actually went up over the past few years. The organization managed to find the funding.

Newly appointed Executive Director Michael Reinke starts his job on Aug.17. Dorward said he’s happy with the change.

“I was supposed to retire a couple of years ago,” said Dorward. “But Chris Moran, who was the previous executive director here at the IFC, ran into some medical issues that came up, and he decided that it was time for him to step down.

“And so, we kind of looked around, and I seemed to be the right choice.”

IFC was just starting its capital campaign for the Community House at the time Dorward took the helm.

Prior to that, Dorward was named associate director in 2007. Most of his professional career has been spent working for non-profits. He joined IFC after working 23 years for Ipas.

The Chapel Hill organization works on women’s reproductive health projects, mostly in the developing world.

Dorward said that when he started at Ipas, the annual budget was around $500,000 a year. Over time, he saw it grow to around $19 million.

“It had gotten so large that it was like working for an IBM or somebody like that,” said Dorward. “Almost all the work was overseas, and I ran the operational side here. So I never really interacted with the people that we were helping.”

So he amicably left Ipas to take a job as finance director with IFC. Now, whenever he’s having a bad day, he can directly thank the community he works with for lifting his spirits.

“I can always walk downstairs, or go to any of our other facilities, and talk to the people that we’re working with, and that we’re helping,” said Dorward, “and it always makes me feel better about it. When I go home at the end of the day, no matter what else I got done that day, I know that we made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Dorward said he’d like to continue working for IFC as a volunteer, and he praised his replacement, Michael Reinke.

“I think he is much more qualified than I ever was to be able to fill this role,” said Dorward. “I keep telling people that we’re giving you an upgrade. I really, truly believe that. He has the educational background and the work background. I mean, he started off as an executive director running homeless shelters, and community kitchens.”

Reinke, who holds M.B.A. and Master of Divinity degrees, has worked for the past 20 years as executive director of four local and statewide nonprofit organizations.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the SECU Community House takes place Sept. 21.


IFC is Hard at Work Feeding Hungry Families at Holiday Time

With two shelters, a food pantry and a community kitchen to run, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service has a lot on the plate during the holidays – literally.

The executive director recently told WCHL that wage stagnation is keeping the charitable organization busier than ever. But there are ways you can help.

This year, the IFC provided a little more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to households in Orange County, according to Executive Director John Dorward.

The IFC had originally planned on providing about 350 holiday dinners.

“We thought that maybe we could cut back a little from last year, when we did 400 meals,” said Dorward. “The economy is supposed to be getting better. But, apparently, I was wrong about that.”

The IFC is still shooting for 350 meals at Christmas, but that, too, could change.

“I think a lot of it is just that people are still not seeing their wages going up,” said Dorward. “A lot of this goes back to wages, and what people can earn during the course of an average week, or an average month.

“What we’re seeing is that those salaries are not living wages. So, people are just running short.”
Most of the families served by the food pantry have at least one worker in the home, and sometimes that person is holding down two jobs, according to Dorward. But when someone is making minimum wage, or not much more than that, it can be difficult to get through the month.

Dorward said more than 4,000 households in Orange County are signed up for IFC services.

“The only encouraging thing that I can tell you is that the numbers of people coming in, and the numbers of bags of groceries that are going out are not going up anymore,” said Dorward. “They have kind of stabilized. But they stabilized at about 50-to-60 percent higher tha what it was before the great recession.”

IFC has been providing these services for about a decade, and it’s getting help and supplementation for various sources.

The PORCH organization, whose advisory board includes Mayors Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill and Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro, provides food for families and pantries in those towns.

Another group, TABLE, provides emergency food to hungry children in the area.

Members of United Church of Chapel Hill help out IFC with everything from food donations, fundraising efforts, and even some cooking.

Recently, the IFC has partnered with Farmer Foodshare to offer fresh local fruits and vegetables, along with the traditional ham, turkey, and fixin’s for the holiday dinner.

Farmer Foodshare originated with the Carrboro Farmers Marker several years ago, and has spread throughout the state. The program gives farmers and shoppers a chance to share or buy a little extra for those in need.

And there’s the annual RSVVP Day, which fell this year on Nov. 11. Participating restaurants contributed 10 percent of their total proceeds toward the IFC’s food pantry and community kitchen.

“It has the possibility of being the best RSVVP day we’ve ever had,” said Dorward. “We ended up with 115 restaurants. Half of the have already sent their money in. And we’ve already collected almost $13,000.”

If the other half does as well, he said, then an all-time record will be achieved.

You can go to ifcweb.org for more information, if you’d like to help.


Cold Temps Drive Up Demand For Shelter

The icy temperatures are driving up demand for emergency shelter at the Inter-Faith Council’s Community House.

IFC Residential Services Director Elizabeth Waugh-Deford says this past weekend, the emergency shelter served an average of 60 men each night, a trend she expects to see continue through the week as the weather stays cold.

The shelter can usually accommodate 50, but on nights when the temperature dips below freezing, staff put out extra cots and yoga mats for anyone who needs to come inside.

Waugh-Deford says they have an immediate need for supplies to help meet the increased demand.

“One thing we really need right now is more blankets because we haven’t had enough blankets for the extra guys who have had to be in the shelter,” says Waugh-Deford.

While IFC staffers are doing all they can to help the homeless stay warm this winter, the nonprofit won’t be able to serve 60 men a night this time next year.

That’s because when the Community House shifts to a new location off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard next summer, the organization will be changing its service model as well, focusing on long-term transitional housing instead of emergency shelter.

While many recognize the need for a new shelter to serve Orange County, there’s not yet a plan in place to replace all the beds at the Community House.

“I know it’s an on-going conversation among the local governments and in our community in general, what to do when we transition to being primarily a transitional men’s shelter,” says Waugh-Deford.

She says the new site will still have beds available during weather emergencies, but the number of people they can accommodate will be far lower.

“We’ll still have 17 emergency beds for inclement weather in our new shelter. We would still have those beds available when it is really cold. The difference is that they’re not going to be available if we don’t have inclement weather.”

In the meantime, those without shelter are facing a week of bitter cold. If you’re looking to help, you can find out more here.


Eat – For A Cause – On RSVVP Day

Today is Veterans Day – and it’s also RSVVP Day, where more than a hundred restaurants in our community pledge 10 percent of their proceeds to the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services.

It’s one of the IFC’s biggest annual fundraisers; last year’s RSVVP Day raised nearly $21,000.

RSVVP stands for “Restaurants Sharing 10 Percent.” (The two V’s are roman-numeral fives. Go with it.) It was launched 26 years ago by Irene Briggaman, and the IFC keeps it going today with the help of hundreds of local community members and business leaders.

Irene Briggaman and IFC executive director John Dorward spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about RSVVP.


Head out to eat at participating restaurants all day long – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit the IFC’s hunger-relief programs, the Community Kitchen and the Food Pantry.

Get a full list of participating restaurants here.

WCHL is proud to be a presenting sponsor of the event alongside the Daily Tar Heel and the Chapel Hill News.

In case you’re wondering, there are six restaurants in our community who have participated every single year: Carolina Crossroads; Crook’s Corner; Il Palio; Sal’s Pizza and Ristorante; the Weathervane at Southern Season; and the Weaver Street Market Café in Carrboro.


Local Demand For Food Assistance Grows Despite Economic Recovery

Newly released census data shows Orange County’s poverty rate may be improving, but the economic recovery has yet to take hold in many communities.

At 10 a.m. on a Friday at the Inter-Faith Council in Carrboro, about half a dozen people wait quietly for their names to be called. Each is a client at the IFC’s Food Pantry. They are eligible to collect one bag of groceries a month. Though not everyone comes that often, many do come regularly.

This is one way Orange County’s working poor make ends meet.

Kristen Lavernge is the IFC’s Community Services Director. She says many clients work at the university, the hospitals or in the school system, but they struggle to pay their rent.

“The guideline generally is that you shouldn’t be paying more than a third of your income in rent, and we find that a lot of our clients are paying at least half and sometimes even more,” says Lavergne.

Affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges facing food pantry clients, as many landlords have stopped accepting Section 8 housing vouchers and the demand for off-campus student housing has driven up the cost of renting in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

“I think having the university here is a blessing in some ways, but it also brings students to this area and the housing competition gets difficult there,” says Lavergne.

According to Orange County Health Department data, a local household would need the income from 2.2 full-time minimum wage jobs to be able to afford the median rent on a two-bedroom apartment.

For some, that doesn’t leave a lot left over to buy groceries.

The IFC distributes 1,200- 1,500 bags of food each month to families and individuals who live and work in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

During the recession, Lavernge says she saw that number spike, and while demand has since plateaued, the level of need still remains higher than when the recession began.

The numbers of people requiring food assistance may be beginning to stabilize in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but in rural Orange, the need continues to grow.

Kay Stagner is the Manager of Client Services with Orange Congregations in Mission. She says since 2010 she’s seen demand for groceries double at the Hillsborough-based Samaritan Relief Mission’s food pantry.

“So far this year we’ve averaged about 290 households a month, that averages to about 14 food orders a day,” says Stagner. “I was looking at our numbers from 2010, just four years ago, and we averaged seven food orders a day.”

OCIM serves residents living in the Orange County Schools district. Though housing costs are lower in the rural areas than in the towns, Stagner says many clients struggle to find work that pays a living wage.

“Nobody wants to come here. They just can’t find jobs,” says Stagner. “They can’t find work that will support themselves and their families.”

Transportation and childcare costs also take a sizable chunk out of workers paychecks. Stagner says even the weather can play an unexpected role in driving up the demand for food.

“An ice storm like we had last winter, people’s power goes out for three, four days, or a week- all of a sudden you have people you haven’t even seen before, that have never needed your help before needing help with food because they lost everything,” says Stagner.

According to the American Community Survey, the percent of people living in poverty in Orange County has dropped slightly, from 17.4 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2013. But that change seems imperceptible to those who work in the area’s food pantries.

Stagner says she fully expects demand to increase in the coming year.

“We never know how many people are going to be needing us. It depends on changes in society from gas prices to the weather. We know we will serve more people this year than last year, we always have. But just how much, there’s no way to tell.”

Both the IFC and OCIM accept non-perishable food donations year-round. For more on how to donate, contact the IFC here and OCIM here.