Homeless Coalition hopes to expand efforts

Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.

Victoria Area Homeless Coalition

Known mostly for its annual count of the homeless in and around Victoria, the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition has a new weapon in its arsenal.

In November, the group officially gained its status as a nonprofit, 501(c)3, organization. Many of its members come from existing nonprofit groups, but the coalition itself had not been an official nonprofit organization.

"It's very important so we can apply for grants, seek out donations from the community and start serving the homeless in our community year round," said Keith Rucker, coalition president.

Eric Leonard, the organization's vice president, agreed.

"This will help get the community involved," Leonard said. "We need to make the community more aware of what we are trying to do. Make our presence known as a nonprofit."

One of the group's major goals is to work on the housing problem in Victoria.

"We need a place where entire families can be placed while they get back on their feet," Rucker said.

The shelter could consist of already existing homes that are vacated and boarded up, said Rucker.

"If we could get two or three of those houses that are boarded up and rehab them, it would be a starting point, Rucker said.

The Homeless Coalition received its first financial boost as a nonprofit organization with a $5,000 donation from Family Promise, a group of churches which assists homeless families in finding temporary shelter.

Rucker said he would also like to see the Homeless Coalition do more outreach programs, including partnering in a health fair that reaches out to the homeless.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition was founded in the 1990s.

"At that time, there were separate organizations with a central interest. The more we understand the depth of the problem, the more need there is for action," said Jim Holm, of Family Promise. "Now we won't need to depend on other organizations' boards to vote on helping us."

Leonard sees the Homeless Coalition's future as an active one.

"Since we are an official nonprofit now, we need to decide what we are going to do throughout the year to keep the interest up, to keep the juices flowing," Leonard said. "We need to be out there handling homeless issues."



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