St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church on Moore St. in Southport, NC. Photo: brunswickcountyncevents-wordpress-com.

On the afternoon of May 17th, 2018, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church held a conference in Southport, NC: “Face of Homelessness”.

Barbara Serafin, Paul Witmer, and Rita Canfield were among those representing BCHC. Paul Witmer observed that most of the conference presenters’ assistance programs were contingent on clients already being present in housing, highlighting need for assistance for those in housing crisis who are at or near homelessness already.

BCHC would like to thank St. Phillip’s, the Southport Oak Island Interchurch Fellowship, and everyone who participated in the conference for focusing attention on and fostering cooperation over issues related to poverty and housing in Brunswick County. Together, we are making a positive difference.

Annual Conference

Bringing It Home Conference 2018. Photo: BCHC
L-R Joe Staton, Barbara Serafin, and Paul Witmer of BCHC

On April 30th and May 1st, 2018, members from the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) attended the second annual “Bringing it Home: Ending Homelessness in NC” conference at NC State University’s McKimmon Center in Raleigh.

The conference is sponsored by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina Housing Coalition, and the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, to “[bring] together state and national leaders to share best practices, discover successful strategies, build relationships through networking, and celebrate the positive impact we are making on ending homelessness in our state.”1

This was BCHC’s second year attending the conference. Representing BCHC in Raleigh were Barbara Serafin, BCHC co-president; Joe Staton, BCHC publicity committee leader; and Paul Witmer, BCHC veterans committee leader.

Joe Staton, who often works with data on the publicity committee, attended classes that focused on collecting and sharing data and making reports and decisions based on that data. “Probably the most important thing I learned is the federal and state standards for data quality in our record keeping,” Staton said. “Data has to be accurate, timely, consistent, and uniform. If you don’t have good data quality, that means you aren’t making good decisions based on data: You’re guessing based on assumptions. This is knowledge that we can really put to work to make better decisions and have a greater impact.”

Paul Witmer, who works directly with veterans who are sometimes in very difficult situations, attended training in working with landlords to foster the availability of affordable housing, and in getting specific help to clients, like Rapid Rehousing, foreclosure prevention, SOAR, and other programs. “The most important things that I learned really were who to contact; the points of contact for getting help for the people who need it,” said Witmer. “Going forward, our three most important areas are organizational assignments, commitment, and outreach.”

Terry Allebaugh of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness and Barbara Serafin of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition at the 2018 Bringing It Home conference. Photo: BCHC

Barbara Serafin, who heads the 1-888 calls committee in addition to her duties as co-president of the organization, was trained in crisis response and trauma sensitivity. “When someone asks for help, they’ve already been traumatized. We need to be sensitive to their trauma, not make things more difficult for them,” said Serafin. “When we take a phone call, we shouldn’t just do an intake to give money or other help–we should investigate what they can do to reduce their risk, to make sure that they have a specific plan in place to avoid entering or returning to homelessness.”


Training Sessions Benefiting BCHC

BCHC Attendees
Training Session Information2
Welcome and Opening Program

  • Satana Deberry, Executive Director, North Carolina Housing Coalition
  • Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Jessica Holmes, Chair, Wake County Board of Commissioners
  • Denise Neunaber, Executive Director, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness


Reducing Barriers and Creating Housing-Focused Shelters
Kay Moshier McDivitt, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Washington, DC
Emergency shelters play a key role in housing crisis response systems. This intensive training will provide an overview of the key elements shelters need to make the shift to low-barrier, housing-focused programs as they look to serve more households and reduce unsheltered homelessness in their communities.
Developing and Strengthening Rapid Rehousing Programs
Ben Cattell Noll, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Washington, DC
Rapid rehousing is a vital component in any housing crisis response system. With rapid rehousing programs, communities help to make homelessness brief by quickly connecting individuals and families to financial assistance and services to stabilize in housing. This intensive training will review the core components of effective rapid rehousing programs and discuss how to address common challenges in implementation.
Putting the Pieces Together: Housing Crisis Response Systems

  • Emily Carmody, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Denise Neunaber, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

Housing crisis response systems underwent many changes over the past several years. From coordinated entry to system performance measures, communities are moving towards operating as a system to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time only for the people they serve. This intensive training will provide an overview of why the system is changing and what to expect on the horizon for your community.

State and Federal Leadership Listening Session
Please join the NCCEH Board and membership as they host speed discussions with North Carolina leadership. Participants will share reflections on their community’s efforts in ending homelessness and what is needed in our state to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time only. Event tables will be hosted by leadership from State and Federal agencies and advocacy organizations.
Landlord Development: Outreach Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Landlords

  • Jef Rawlings, Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Agency
  • Jenny Moffatt, Homeward Bound

Homeless service systems depend on strong partnerships with landlords. This session will explore how to engage and recruit local landlords to support efforts to end homelessness. Topics include risk mitigation funds, landlord events, and landlord retention.

Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Environment

  • Deena Fulton, North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Jennifer Tisdale, The Salvation Army of Wake County

Many individuals and families who access shelter have experienced traumatic life events before entering programs. This session will review key strategies for shelters and housing programs to use to ensure they are providing trauma-informed services.

The Foundations: Ensuring Quality Data

  • Cecelia Peers, Cape Fear Council of Governments
  • Nicole Purdy, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Andrea Carey, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

The first step in being able to use data as an agency and community is to ensure data entry is accurate. This session will review best practices for data entry and common mistakes that have a big impact.

Champions for Change Panel

  • Eric Edwards, Lisa Brand, and Ruebe Holmes, Champions for Change
  • Terry Allebaugh, North Carolina Caolition to End Homelessness, moderator

Formerly homeless panelists will share their stories of homelessness, how their lives were impacted, and how they are now involved as advocates in public dialogue and activities around homeless policy and practice.

Data and Real World Impact
Tia Sanders-Rice, Jasmin Volkel, Denise Neunaber, and Ben Bradley, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
This session will explore how programs can use their data and reports to better understand program performance and evaluate their impact on homelessness.
Having an Impact: Housing and Homelessness Policymaking

  • Samuel Gunter, North Carolina Housing Coalition
  • Ehren Dohler, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

What’s on the horizon for federal and state policy? How do we make our voices heard in the process? This session will help participants understand the current policy landscape around housing and homelessness and how they can advocate to end homelessness.

Accessing Resources Beyond HUD

  • Emily Carmody, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Brooks Ann McKinney, Mission Health System
  • Jessa Johnson, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

There are many resources available to help people experiencing homelessness besides HUD programs. This session will explore how communities can access social security benefits through SOAR and housing and services through the Transitions to Community Living Initiative and other healthcare partnerships.

Beyond Reporting: Translating Your Community’s System Performance Measures

  • Denise Neunaber, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Courtney Morton, Mecklenburg County

System Performance Measures allow communities to view their progress towards ending homelessness from a wider system level. Learn the basics of these measures, what they mean for funding, and how they can be used to drive program and system decisions.

Feeling the Crunch: The Affordable Housing Crisis
and its Impact on Homeless and Housing Services

  • Samuel Gunter, North Carolina Housing Coalition
  • Terry Allebaugh, North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

Housing affordability is a growing challenge for communities across the state and country. This session will focus on mapping the affordable housing crisis, its causes, and how responses impact the work of homeless service providers.

Presenter biographies and slides for most sessions above are published on the NCCEH website.

Closing message from the conference organizers: “On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Division of Aging and Adult Services, the HUD Emergency Solutions Grant Program, the North Carolina Housing Coalition, the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, and everyone who contributed…thank you for attending this year’s state conference on homelessness. State staff and agency partners worked to get as much information about promising practices to you as possible in hopes that you return to your programs with valuable information to serve those experiencing homelessness. The goal of ending homelessness in our state is truly a group effort, and we look forward to our continued collaboration as we work to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time only in North Carolina. We hope to see you again next year!”3


1 Official conference program, page 1., accessed May 1st, 2018.

2 Ibid, pages 1-4.

3 Ibid, page 5.