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. 


Inter-Faith Council Completes Fundraising for Homeless Shelter

The Inter-Faith Council for Social Services, or IFC, has announced it has now raised the money necessary to completely fund a new homeless shelter for men at 1315 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Chapel Hill.


The Executive Director for the IFC, John Dorward, spoke about the nearly three decades it took to make this homeless shelter a reality. He says it all started when Chapel Hill donated the temporary quarters for housing homeless men, women, and children in the old municipal building. It all turned around in 2008 when UNC offered them property near Homestead and MLK Jr. Blvd. After getting permit process, they began their capital campaign in 2012 to raise the necessary $5.76 million.

“We finished that campaign in late June of this year,” says Dorward. “We got the last pieces to come together.”

He says that the final grant for the campaign came from a competitive grant.

“That would be the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta,” Dorward says. “We got a half million dollar grant from them, and that put us over the top.”

He says that one of the biggest struggles of establishing the shelter was finding a suitable location.

“We looked at lots and lots of pieces of property around the town during the time that we have been in the temporary quarters,” says Dorward. “Now the one piece of property we are going to be building on is one of the few places in town that is actually zoned properly for a homeless shelter. After that, the hardest part would be trying to raise all that money.”

The new shelter will replace the one found near West Rosemary and North Columbia streets and in the former Town Hall building.

Dorward says that the plan for the building will remain the same as they have established.

“It will be 52 men housed on a nightly basis that are part of the transitional program that we will be running,” he says. “We can house up to 17 [more] men on an emergency basis.”

For more information on the Inter-Faith Council, click here.


Honors, Tours, And Curiosities!

Congratulations to Desaray Rockett, Judith Blau, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe–winners of this year’s Pauli Murray Awards.

The Orange County Human Relations Commission gives out the Pauli Murray Awards each year to a youth, an adult, and a business in Orange County “who serve the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.”

This year’s winners were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, February 23, at 3:00 in the Central Orange Senior Center. Also honored were Judah Kalb and Nathan Bell – both students at Smith Middle School, and both winners of the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s 2013 Student Essay Contest.

As part of a class on African American Studies, Kalb and Bell wrote about the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kalb won first place in the essay contest; Bell took second.


UNC has honored Roberto G. Quercia, chair of the City and Regional Planning department, with the university’s 2013 C. Felix Harvey Award.

Awarded by the Provost’s office, the honor recognizes “exemplary faculty scholarship that reflects one of UNC’s top priorities and addresses a real-world challenge.” It includes a $75,000 prize, which Quercia will use to develop the Bridges2Success Scholar Athlete Support Program, an academy that trains middle and high school coaches to promote academic success among male athletes of color.

To learn more about the program, visit Bridges2Success.org.


You’re invited to the annual meeting of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Wednesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.

Speakers will include Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Al Bowers, the owner of Al’s Burger Shack.


Before there were art museums and science museums, there were “Cabinets of Curiosities”: densely packed rooms where scholars and nobles displayed rare and fascinating items from shells to gems to old relics and bizarre devices.

Now, UNC’s Wilson Library is celebrating those old exhibits with an exhibit of its own, “Rooms of Wonder,” on display through April 20. The exhibit features rare books and catalogs from the old rooms–as well as items from the UNC Rare Book Collection’s own “cabinet of curiosities,” including ancient Babylonian tablets, an Egyptian papyrus roll, and an “Incan record-keeping device consisting of intricately knotted threads.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public.


Wednesday, March 5, you’re invited to campus for a free screening of the documentary “Breaking Through,” chronicling the stories of LGBT elected officials across the country–including Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator.

The film begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center. Director/producer Cindy Abel and editor Michael Bruno will be on hand, and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring North Carolina’s LGBT elected officials–including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, Town Council member Lee Storrow, Alderman Damon Seils, and State Representative Marcus Brandon.

You can watch the trailer online at BreakingThroughMovie.com.


Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center just completed a successful canned food drive, collecting nearly 1,000 cans of food for the IFC by offering customers a $10 discount on oil changes if they brought in four cans of food.

IFC officials say those cans will be used to help about 450 different families in the area.

To learn how you can donate, visit IFCWeb.org.


Chatham Habitat for Humanity is teaming up with the MassMutual Life Insurance Company to give away free $50,000 term life insurance policies to benefit children of working families in Pittsboro.

You are eligible to apply if you’re a permanent legal U.S. resident of good health between the ages of 19 and 42, with a total family income between $10,000 and $40,000, and a parent or legal guardian of a child under 18.

You can apply at a one-day public event on Saturday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chatham Habitat for Humanity office at 467 West Street in Pittsboro.


You’re invited to explore the history of Hillsborough on Saturday, March 8, with a one-hour guided walking tour hosted by the Alliance of Historic Hillsborough.

The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Hillsborough Visitors Center and winds through the center of the Piedmont’s oldest town, visiting schoolhouses, old homes and cemeteries along the way.

Tickets are $5 per person; children under 12 are free.


IFC’s “RSVVP Day” A Success, Despite Weather

CHAPEL HILL – A blast of snow and ice last month threatened to put a damper on the Inter-Faith Council’s annual “RSVVP Day” fundraiser, but IFC executive director John Dorward says in spite of the weather, the event went off without a hitch.

“It actually went very well,” he says. “We thought (the snow) might hurt, but it did not…we’ve collected from over half the (participating) restaurants at this point, and the total (so far) was $12,500…

“Most of the restaurants have turned in more money this year than they did last year, and last year we had pretty decent weather.”

RSVVP Day” is one of the IFC’s biggest annual fundraisers, with more than 100 restaurants around the area donating ten percent of their daily proceeds to the IFC’s food programs. This year marked the 25th annual RSVVP Day; last year’s event raised more than $20,000.

The Inter-Faith Council is perhaps Chapel Hill’s best-known organization that serves those in need—and with holiday season in full swing, they’re stepping up their efforts to make sure no one in the area goes hungry. Dorward says they provided meals on Thanksgiving to more than 400 families, and they’re hoping to serve even more at Christmastime.

IFC officials are asking for donations to help the cause. Dorward says a little goes a long way.

“Twenty-five dollars gives you a meal–an entire meal, everything that they need–for a Christmas dinner” for a family, he says.

The IFC is also seeking donations of canned and nonperishable food for the IFC’s Food Pantry.

To find out how you can contribute, visit IFCWeb.org.


Concert Saturday To Benefit IFC Community House

CHAPEL HILL – The folk trio Brother Sun will perform on Saturday night at the Community Church of Chapel Hill, to raise money for the Inter-Faith Council’s Community House capital campaign.

“They do some beautiful music together,” says IFC executive director John Dorward.

Brother Sun is comprised of Joe Jencks, Pat Wictor and Greg Greenway; they’ve been nationally recognized as one of the best folk-Americana vocal groups in the country.

Proceeds from Saturday’s concert will help the IFC build its new Community House at 1315 MLK Boulevard. IFC officials are hoping to raise $5,760,000 for the project; Dorward says they’re close already.

“We’re making very good progress,” he says. “We started the capital campaign in earnest earlier this year, (and) we’re to about $4.4 million (raised)…we’ve got a ways yet to go, but we feel very confident that we’re going to get there.”

That $4.4 million has come from more than 300 individual donors.

When it’s completed, Dorward says the Community House shelter will have room to house 52 men, with an additional 17 beds available for emergencies—as well as a wellness clinic and job counseling, among other services.

“The new Community House will give us a permanent location for the first time,” he says. “We’ve been in temporary quarters in the old Municipal Building for 28 years now…

“We’ll have 52 beds for men on a transitional basis where they can work through the program–and at the end of the day they’re back on their feet and they’re back out in the community, paying taxes and working just like the rest of us.”

Construction on the Community House is slated to begin next spring, with a projected opening in 2015.

The Brother Sun concert gets underway at 8:00 Saturday night at the Community Church of Chapel Hill on 106 Purefoy Road. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the show; you can purchase them online at IFCWeb.org.

You can listen to Brother Sun by visiting BrotherSunMusic.com.