Recent concerns over people sleeping on the lawn of Our Community Place (OCP) is highlighting what local advocates say is the need for year-round solutions to address homelessness in the area. According to Sam Nickels, executive director of OCP, the influx of people sleeping outside OCP began with a misunderstanding.
On warm spring and summer nights, the outlines of several people bedded down for the night are plainly visible outside Our Community Place. Many of those experiencing homelessness in Harrisonburg don’t have a lot of options for places to sleep, so they tuck themselves into quiet corners and shadows.
After several episodes this summer involving people panhandling — including the death of a dog and businesses reporting trespassing to the Harrisonburg Police Department —Mayor Deanna Reed called stakeholders to two meetings this week to discuss concerns and possible solutions.
“Residentially impaired” is how Dylan Thompson describes his living situation at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The church rotates with 15 other places of worship in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County that take in homeless guests as part of Open Doors.