Officials at Washington County churches and agencies say they are facing increasingly large numbers of people in crisis coming to their doors.
On Aug. 21, officials met to discuss the issue, how they can work together more to address the needs and to seek longterm solutions.
The meeting, sponsored by Hagerstown Area Religious Council, was held at Christ’s Reformed Church in Hagerstown.
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Thirty-four people attended, including representatives from 22 churches and seven agencies.
Directors from the Department of Social Services, REACH and Community Action Council shared information about what they do to help people in need, how they work together and how churches should handle referrals.
Officials also shared some of the “gaps” in service where help from the faith community is needed and where the whole community can work together on preventative and longterm solutions.
Identified areas of additional need include money; homeless boys ages 15 to 20; homeless men; affordable, safe and sanitary housing; employment, including entry level; foster parents; education; and nonfood staples, such as laundry detergent or other household or personal grooming products that are not covered with food stamps.
One of the main areas where agency representatives believe churches can help is in building relationships with those in need to help them long-term.
HUB NETwork co-leader Clarence Horst spoke about the HUB’s objective of training church volunteers to come alongside people in need while at the same time setting boundaries and avoiding co-dependency.
The HUB NETwork will also act as a connection point between churches, agencies and businesses so that people in need will have a “safety net” of resources throughout the community and so church personnel do not always have to remember who to refer to which agency for what resource.
In seeking solutions, housing and education were areas of most concern.
Churches and agencies plan to continue the discussion on crisis needs in the community, and work in the coming months to improve the system for help as well as tackle longterm solutions.
The council is co-organizing a community book drive in partnership with the Hagerstown Rotary Literacy Initiative and the United Way’s Day of Caring.
One pastor has expressed excitement about a possible future housing program, and many are looking at ways the community can share resources and information for various services offered, such as food pantries and soup kitchens.
To sign up for training on how to work with people in crisis or to learn more about the HUB NETwork, send an email to info@CMHag.org.
David Engle, director of DSS, recommended that the faith community get involved with the Hagerstown Rotary Literacy Initiative and other childhood education programs. Many of the individuals who have been through the welfare system, Engle said, are unskilled and can only obtain entry level jobs making about $9 per hour.
Engle was also eager to dispel the myth of families living endlessly on welfare. He said 80 percent of those who receive welfare benefits are off of welfare within 24 months and working.