In the Community

Doing Good: Judeo-Christian Outreach Center Ends Homelessness for James W. Lewis

In April 2014 James W. Lewis moved into permanent housing in Chesapeake, Virginia and became the inaugural Housing First client of the Virginia Beach-based Judeo-Christian Outreach Center. His new home came with services designed to help him remain there.

Two years later Lewis calls his rescue from homelessness like climbing into “a boat that doesn’t have holes in it. It sits me up a little taller. I feel a little sturdier to push forward.”

Lewis, 57, is disabled by blood clots and chronic back problems. He is a former carnival worker who spent 10 years bouncing between Hampton Roads homeless shelters and sleeping outdoors.

JCOC’s Housing First program, largely funded by Hampton Roads Community Foundation donors, alters the traditional practice of moving homeless people into crowded shelters and transitional housing while requiring them to take courses and receive counseling before getting permanent housing.

A federally mandated shift to “Housing First in 2009 was a big culture change for us,” says Todd A.J. Walker, JCOC executive director. “Other services are still important, but housing is the biggest. We now attack that animal at the beginning. We do other assessments and services once someone’s in a stable [housing] situation.”

Fatima Tomlin, a JCOC case manager, helped Lewis find his new home, adopt good budgeting habits and cover initial costs. Lewis now lives in an immaculate, furnished home in a neighborhood near a supermarket and is happy to be there.

JCOC is among 10 Hampton Roads nonprofits receiving more than $4.9 million in grants provided by Hampton Roads Community Foundation donors to help end homelessness in southeastern Virginia.

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