Homelessness is a universal problem, affecting nearly every community in America, but the solution to that problem is far from straightforward.
In the last few years, calls for action to address homelessness in Pahrump have only increased as the amount of unhoused residents rises. Many have turned to the Nye County Commission for answers but a group of local churches is not relying on the government to step in and fix it. Instead, they are taking on the task themselves, launching a new program titled Love Thy Neighbor.
With the help of Mind Body Solutions, Nevada Outreach and the NyE Communities Coalition, the Love Thy Neighbor program aims to assist those near to or already experiencing homelessness with everything from basic necessities to training, employment and, perhaps most important, medical and mental health.
“The homeless problem is an ongoing issue here,” local resident Edward Bevilacqua told the Pahrump Valley Times this week. “This is the churches getting together to solve that problem. Churches deal in empathy and compassion. The county is not supposed to be focused on that – not that they shouldn’t have that, but that’s not their primary directive. Their primary directive is to be efficient administrators. So really, this is a self-reflection of, ‘We shouldn’t have been putting the burden of this on the county in the first place.’ We, as our community churches, are going to shoulder that burden.”
Included in the Love Thy Neighbor program are Faith Fellowship, Full Armor of God, Heritage Bible Church, Joy Divine Community Church, New Hope Fellowship, Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, Pahrump Valley United Methodist Church, Reset Family Church, South Valley Baptist Church, Theophilus Ministries and Trinity Church.
Bevilacqua said the program got its start not long ago when a concerned citizen went to Reset Church to request prayers for a 70-year-old man who is blind in one eye and living in a trailer without water, power or sewer. The man had been made to move his trailer multiple times and was even facing seizure of his only asset and possible jail time.
In addition to arranging for prayers for the man, Bevilacqua took it a step further and started calling around to see what could be done about the situation. That was when he spoke with Frank Esposito from Theophilus Ministries, whose words sparked the fire that has flared into the Love Thy Neighbor program.
“Well Frank said, ‘It’s not fair to blame the county government for this. It really should be the churches who get together to help the homeless.’” Bevilacqua detailed. “Several of the churches here do have programs, all with great intentions, but they don’t coordinate them. So we thought, why don’t we see if we can get the churches together, put our doctrinal differences aside, and do something collectively?”
Once the word began to spread, many area churches were eager to get involved. Members of the Love Thy Neighbor program are now actively going out into the community to find those who are homeless or near homeless to offer help.
“The key special ingredient that has been added to this is, professional help from a psychiatrist from Las Vegas named David Linden from Mind Body Solutions,” Bevilacqua explained of the program. “That’s the secret sauce, the icing on the cake, the sizzle to the steak. We start with what we call ‘triage’, identifying people who need assistance. Those people will either decline help or accept it. Those who want the help getting out of their current circumstances are immediately scheduled for an evaluation with Dr. Linden.”
Once the evaluation process is complete, participants can move into a 12-month program comprised of several steps. These include intensive medical assistance and training, foundational employment and career planning and a period of group living and career-related education and training followed by time in independent living in a house with a small number of others. The ultimate goal is to then assist each graduate of the 12-month program in purchasing their own home.
As for those who have needs that cannot be met by local resources, they are offered the opportunity for relocation to Clark County.
“Homelessness and underemployment cost the county millions,” a press release from Love Thy Neighbor states. “Now, through the efforts of local churches and agencies, we can quickly and reliably help those seeking a hand-up.”
For more information visit www.LoveThyNeighbor-NV.com or call 775-990-8455.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org