Supporters of a newly formed coalition of faith-based and community service organizations are targeting homelessness in the Inland Valley.

The group is called OUR Homeless and the idea is that there is strength in numbers.

It's going to take numbers to help since the nonprofit wants to promote solutions to help eliminate homelessness in this part of San Bernardino County. OUR Homeless is jumping into the mix in a big way. It is hosting an upcoming summit, and the community is invited.

The program is called "Faith In Action: Solving Homelessness Together" and is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 2 at Life Bible Fellowship Church, 2426 N. Euclid Ave., Upland.

Participation is free but registration is asked so organizers can prepare. There will be exhibit. A continental breakfast will be served at 8a.m.

A highlight of the morning will be a presentation by Philip Mangano, who was appointed a national "homeless czar" in 2002 by President George W. Bush. Mangano served as executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness for seven years, earning him a place on Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2007.

Local advocates are excited about the program and efforts to help. The program will bring together clergy, congregations, homeless support and advocacy programs, and people who want to help end homelessness in our community," said Bill Cortus of Thrivent Financial in Ontario and a program supporter.


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In fact, Thrivent is sponsoring the event.

OUR Homeless is a working group of pastors, nonprofit leaders, community volunteers and just plain folk who want to help. Together, they started talking about doing something concrete and formed this network. This Faith In Action Summit is the group's official launch in its effort to engage the community.

"OUR stands for Ontario, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga but our network also includes Chino, Chino Hills and Montclair. OUR has a double meaning of course as we promote the fact that we are trying to find solutions to homeless challenges for our neighbors and others from our communities in need of help and support," said Don Smith of Urban Initiatives and another supporter. "Frankly, it started about a year and a half ago with one person, Karen Althaus, who wanted to make a real difference and engage her church and others of faith in helping the homeless. She then began a journey of discovery to find there are a lot of good people and organizations working to help the homeless but few were actually working together or even knew what others were doing in their backyard."

Smith said solving homelessness is possible if the community can marshal its efforts.

"And we can do it with the same funding, resources, and energy presently being applied to people randomly ricocheting through community systems that help people manage and survive homelessness, and do it more effectively and efficiently. We hope that anyone in the community interested in being a part of the solutions to homelessness will join us at the Summit and beyond," he said.

One simple solution seemed to be to meet and come together as a solid unit.

"We hope to engage more people in the national movement to prevent and end homelessness. Simply put, we intend to link the talents, energy and resources of people who want to be a part of the solution to good ideas and good programs that work to help solve people's homeless situations," Smith said. "We don't need to re-invent the wheel. We simply need to connect good people to good programs that work to help people exit life on the streets and achieve self-sufficiency."

Althaus is thrilled with the results to date. Some of those she calls her "sidekicks" in this effort are Cortus, Smith, Ron Weissman and Pastor Gary Keith of Life Bible Fellowship Church; Pastor Steve Smith of Upland Brethren in Christ; Janene Brunette of Upland Methodist Church; Leif Ozier and Valerie Valenzuela of Catholic Charities; and Judy Saul of Mercy House.

"Not only do we as a movement want to connect people, volunteers and congregations with the organizations already serving but we want to be a resource for people to turn to for networking and we want to work on creating affordable housing initiatives for families, individuals and those at risk of homelessness. We believe the faith-based community will be a great resource to get these types of goals accomplished," Althaus said.

Again, the upcoming program is free. To find out more about it and to register, go to www.faithinaction01.eventbrite.com.

suzanne.sproul@inlandnewspapers.com