Faith Alliance

Mayor Craig McFarland addresses the Casa Grande Faith Alliance on Tuesday, speaking about affordable housing and other challenges.

CASA GRANDE — At a meeting of the Casa Grande Faith Alliance on Tuesday, area faith leaders were asked to consider sheltering homeless people in churches on a rotating basis.

The Faith Alliance hopes to start a program modeled after the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program in Tempe, in which churches take turns providing emergency sleeping spaces for homeless individuals for a night, Faith Alliance board member Robert Penzenstadler, a deacon at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, told those gathered at the meeting.

“The key is that the homeless would get a peaceful sleep without fear. It would be a night for them to relax,” Penzenstadler said. “In the morning, they would get up, shower, clean the whole area and receive a bag breakfast.”

Up to 25 homeless individuals would be accepted into the program each night.

CG Helps, an organization that aims to prevent homelessness and provide services for the homeless, would select the individuals each night, screen and register them and transport them to and from the participating church shelter site.

Individuals in the program would prepare the site for sleeping and clean up in the morning.

Area churches would rotate opening up free building space on their campuses for shelter and rallying volunteers to provide dinner and breakfast.

The homeless would be in the church facility from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“We’re asking churches to consider opening up a building as a place for the homeless to stay for a night,” Penzenstadler said.

I-Help has operated in Tempe for nearly 15 years and is the city’s only shelter program for the homeless. Each night, the program serves about 40 people, providing a safe place to sleep along with a meal, hot showers and laundry service. During the day, participants work with advocates to find permanent housing.

“As a church, you would be a key part of the program,” Penzenstadler said. “It’s not as involved or as hard as you would think.”

Churches that wish to be involved in the program may email Penzenstadler at dcnbobp@stanthonycg.org.

The Faith Alliance of Casa Grande, formerly the Emergency Assistance Ministry, is a network of churches, nonprofit organizations and government volunteers united to care for the community’s most vulnerable residents. Its mission is to “engage the faith community to support unduplicated services to the less fortunate adults and children in Casa Grande,” according to its website.

Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland addressed the gathering, saying that among the challenges the city faces is affordable housing.

City officials hope to work with Chicanos Por La Causa to develop several vacant lots the city owns south of downtown to create more affordable housing, he said.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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