Starting to make a difference

Published 9:37 pm Saturday, October 26, 2013

One year after it started, the Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk has proved to be an important resource for people in need. The nonprofit organization marked its first anniversary last week, and CAPS’ volunteers and supporters celebrated the difference the nonprofit organization has made in the lives of some of Suffolk’s poorest residents.

A small group of people from several area churches got together to start CAPS in August 2012 in order to find a way to collectively help people who had been approaching the churches individually for assistance. During the past year, the organization has grown to include 17 churches and faith organizations.

During that year, CAPS has served more than 230 people, according to the Rev. Les Ferguson of St. John’s Episcopal Church, one of the founding members of the group and presently chairman of its board of directors. The coalition has provided about $43,000 in financial assistance during just the first three quarters of this year, having raised more than $50,000 in donations during the same period.

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And members do not intend to rest on their laurels. They continue to work to expand the services offered by the organization and to recruit other faith-based groups to get involved with the effort. In January, they expect to begin offering temporary overnight shelter for homeless people in Suffolk during the coldest months of the year.

With plans to provide temporary accommodations for up to 20 people a week, the program is a modest one. But it represents a good-faith effort by people of faith to do something good for some of the people who are most desperate for help in Suffolk.

As with the wider CAPS program’s approach to poverty in general, the Suffolk Night Stay Program for homeless people in the city will not eliminate the problem of homelessness, but it will make a difference on one night for one or two people. It’s a start, and sometimes starting is the hardest part of solving seemingly intractable community problems.