PACEM (Sheltering the Homeless)


PACEM Hosting at Incarnation

15 years of helping people in need and sharing compassion for our neighbors in crisis

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in. 

– Saint Teresa of Calcutta

PACEM Documents for Incarnation Hosting (pdfs)

Pacem GuidelinesVolunteer ManualPACEM Overview 20192019 Job descriptions


We host PACEM guests in the Parish Activities Center for 2 weeks each year.  When we host this fall, we will, once again, need hundreds of parishioners to serve our guests by providing food, doing laundry, spending time with the men, and setting up and take down the area, and assisting with a variety of other tasks.  If you would like to be involved in one of the many jobs that are necessary while we are hosting, please stay tuned in October for the announcements that direct you how to get involved.  As sign-ups are taking place, the spreadsheets and duties will be posted to this page, too.

We want to turn the PAC into a comfortable, safe and caring place for our guests. PACEM is a great opportunity to serve in so many different ways. We need daily lead
volunteers, cooks, meal servers, overnight volunteers, setup and takedown folks, sandwich makers, hard-boiled egg cookers, orange juice, milk, and fresh fruit providers,
haircutters, and laundry volunteers. We need volunteers for evening activities and spending time with our guests. There are lots of ways to pitch in and help.

We would like to offer the men haircuts again this year. If there are any barbers or hairstylists in our parish who could serve these men contact Tom or Sheila. We are also looking for people to share their talents to make this the best experience for these men. Consider offering a Stretching Class, Nutrition Workshop, Art project, Resume Building session or any other ideas you may have.

If you would like to get involved with our PACEM committee, please contact Tom Eckman ( or Sheila Herlihy,  Coordinator of Justice & Charity in the office (
If you would like to become more involved with the organization of PACEM, contact

 To learn more about PACEM, click here for their website.PACEM Rack CardSpring – Summer 2019 Newsletter


History and Philosophy of PACEM

In 2003, Charlottesville clergy and homeless advocates created PACEM after members of the Downtown Ministerial Alliance shared the experience of showing up for work in the morning and regularly finding homeless neighbors sleeping in the doorways.

The 2004 Homeless Census – conducted by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH )– supported the experience of the downtown clergy. Dozens of individuals were living in the streets, in the woods, in their cars, in abandoned buildings, behind garbage dumpsters, or around churches in the middle of winter. With a pressing need for shelter, the Downtown Ministerial Alliance and TJACH joined together. They gave their grassroots initiative the name PACEM – an acronym for People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, a word that also comes from the phrase for peace: Dona Nobis PACEM.

Based on a rotating shelter model from Richmond, PACEM opened during the winter of 2004. As we prepare for our 13th season this upcoming winter, PACEM has provided nearly 80,000 total nights of shelter for people who are homeless in our community. Along the way, we have learned that homelessness is not simply “house”-lessness. To be homeless is to lack roots, ties to place, and a sense of belonging. Extending hospitality re-establishes this connection.* (Source: Richard Hopkins) PACEM believes that a welcoming, safe place to shelter is the first step to addressing the crisis of
homelessness.  Sharing a compassion for our neighbors in crisis, we bring the members of nearly 80 congregations and groups together each winter to address the need for shelter in our community.

Our Mission

PACEM’s mission is “To bring together the faith community of the greater Charlottesville area to provide temporary shelter, compassionate support, and access to services to homeless individuals, so they can move to a stable housing solution. This work can only be achieved by forging partnerships in the larger community.”

Shelter of Last Resort

Because PACEM is a shelter of last resort, we are sometimes required to help individuals recognize that they have other choices. There are a variety of reasons why a guest may be referred elsewhere, encouraged to move forward, or assigned a limited length of stay. The most common reasons are housing or supportive resources in a nearby community.

Broader Community Safety Net

The annual Point in Time Count* in 2016 identified 161 adults in the Charlottesville area who are homeless. Of these, 22 (less than 14%) were unsheltered.  During the Point in Time Count in 2004, 23% were unsheltered.

We would like this number to be zero, but an unsheltered count of less than 10% is a reflection of a community with a strong safety net. The decrease in the number of neighbors who are unsheltered since PACEM opened in 2004 is one way to evaluate our work. We thank our more than 3,000 volunteers for their work over the last twelve years in strengthening our community! *TJACH’s annual Point in Time Counts (January, 2004 and January, 2016)

During the day, PACEM guests return to The Haven at 7:00 a.m. where there is a hot breakfast served. There are showers, computers, storage bins, and laundry facilities. Guests may also use The Haven’s address to receive mail.

Soup kitchens in churches around the downtown area provide lunches each day.

Social Justice Quotes

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is no use saying we were born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ will always be with us, always asking for room in our hearts…we are not born too late. We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in everyone we come in contact with. All this can be proved, if proof is needed, by the doctrines of the Church. We can talk about Christ’s Mystical Body, about the vine and the branches, about the Communion of the Saints. But Christ Himself has proved it for us, and no one has to go further than that. For He said that a glass of water given to a beggar was given to Him. He made heaven hinge on the way we act toward Him in His disguise of commonplace, frail, ordinary humanity.

– Dorothy Day

It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed – but they have not loved
humanity, they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved ‘personally.’ It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking…it is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love.

– Dorothy Day

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for home there is no room, Christ is present in this world.

– Thomas Merton

We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.
– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

There are many in the world dying for a piece of bread but many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is not only a poverty of loneliness, but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one’s brother, so that he is not regarded as an object to which one does good. Good done to another as an object is of little or no spiritual value. In fact, it is a tragedy which destroys him who does that sort of thing. Love takes on one’s neighbor as one’s other self, and loves him with all the immense humility and discretion and reserve and reverence without which no one can presume to enter into the sanctuary of another…the full difficulty and magnitude of the task of loving others should be recognized and never minimized. It is hard to really love others; if love is taken in the fullest sense of the word…I have often spoken of identification with the poor…it is an identification so deep, so complete, that it becomes part of oneself, like breathing. It is a way of loving.
– Catherine Doherty