Two Durham agencies combining to battle homelessness

Latisha Holmes of Durham made her way out of homelessness.

DURHAM, N.C. –

Two Durham agencies that help families who are homeless are coming together. In the process, they will change their approach to providing a roof and other resources to those in need.

Latisha Holmes was homeless for two months. Now, she has a car of her own, a job – and a place to call home.

“I’m OK,” she said.

But the process of going from homeless to having her own place was difficult.

“It was nerve-wrecking because I’ve never ended up homeless. I’ve never been homeless. Never experienced it. Never thought I’d be homeless,” she said.

But Holmes, who has two children, was one of 39 families who received help from the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network last year. She stayed with members of local churches.

Now, that agency is merging with Genesis Home, which served 37 families last year.

“This is part of an end-to-end system change,” said Catherine Pleil, executive director of the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Families stay an average of four to five months at Genesis Home. The Durham Interfaith Hospital Network is more emergency-based.

The merged agency will locate where Genesis Home is now and focus on the emergency care.

“We are trying to cut our average length of stay and get our families into housing more quickly,” said Ryan Fehrman, executive director of Genesis Home.

The goal of the new emergency shelter is for families to stay there 90 days or less, with the goal being around 60 days.

“This merger isn’t just about shelter,” Fehrman said. “ It’s about addressing gaps in our system.”

The merger allows money to go toward another agency helping find families housing, and thus putting a bigger emphasis on the care families get after they leave the emergency shelter.

Fehrman said the merger allows the organization to transition some money to another agency, Housing for New Hope, which helps with rapid re-housing. He said they’ll also partner with Urban Ministries of Durham. The goal is to put a bigger emphasis on the care families get after they leave the emergency shelter.

Pleil said, “We feel like we’re really trying to provide more services than there’s been the resources to previously support. We’re trying to really add the resources.”

Holmes is now on the board of the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network and is proof of how important those resources are. She said the merger will help others like her.

Coming together to end homelessness, she said, “is a great thing.”

The merger is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

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