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11.20 Meeting

VJC Meeting Notes

November 20, 2023


Present: R Jackson, Lareta Finger, Debra Turner, Russ Leimbach, Kevin Drexel, Duane Baron, Mike

Ramer, LaDawn Knicely, Jim Hogan, Ruth Stoltzfus, Jenny Stover, Sheba Williams, Andrea Jackson,

Kathleen Templeton

Harvey- Asked each attendee to introduce themselves.

R Jackson – Is a part of Strength in Peers, and helps with re-entry.

Lareta - Concerned citizen and wants to learn. She has helped people write letters to editor. She is co-

editor to Sojourners.

Debra – Legislative expert. Interested in legislation done in Richmond to change laws that affect us

locally.

Kevin – new to VA. In Harrisonburg 1 year. 30+ career in housing affordability. Interested in re-entry

and affordable housing options.

Duane – Deputy Public Defender in Staunton, doesn’t practice in Harrisonburg.

LaDawn – Pastor and pastoral counselor under the supervision of Harvey. Past work has been at Mercy

House and Gemeinshaft Home which gave her an interest in working with formerly incarcerated felons.

Kathleen – Stated she is overwhelmed, and deeply blessed to be a part of this group and passionate

about peace and criminal justice activist.

Ruth – Retired legal aid attorney with Blue Ridge with criminal law. Been involved with criminal justice

community and hopeful for next steps and legislation change out of Richmond.

Jim – Citizen and involved with VJC for several years and appreciative of contributing.

Jenny – from NY. Helps elderly individuals incarcerated with medical issues to get them out. One was

her brother who she helped to get him out after 29 years of incarceration.

Russ – Citizen interest. Transplant from S. Indiana 15 years ago, Was a Hosier Hills Pact which is

alternatives to incarceration utilized.

Sheba – Richmond – Reentry work

Andrea – Volunteer and activist for community and VA organizing events. Involved with VJC when part

of expansion of regional jail was being discussed and desires to be informed about criminal justice.

Harvey – Middle River-Landrum, reporter at DNR, to interview some of women and GH house

tomorrow. If we have anything we want to inform Landrum, let her know.

Updates:

CJP Hire – Steering Committee met and to get momentum going where Stephen King is Administrator

who is putting this position on back burner with nothing is happening. Ruth and LaDawn are putting

heads together to make sure consistent voice about job description. LaDawn encouraged to meet with

Sallie and Stephen. Not only do we have a CJP opening, but also CIT Planner, and other vacancies.

Russ – Isn’t city also responsible?

Ruth – Answered, she went and spoke to City Council with open public time that both city and county is

affected. She requested city staff to work with us when having to deal with jail expansion. She realized

that Rockingham/Harrisonburg work together on jail and jail issues as deal with Middle River. She

hoped the city would help nudge county to fill CJP position. She came to understand that this


assignment has been given to the county with lists of stuff to do and limited with time. She doesn’t

believe what she shared at council meeting didn’t mean much. We need to know what our main

concern with job description is and streamline it, and not make a long wish list.

Harvey – How do you Duane do it in Augusta County with D Pastors. Is it a shared project or city or

county?

Daune – Not sure about funding if separately or not.

Hogan – Ruth has city made specific requests to hire CJP or are they sitting on their hands not doing

anything?

Ruth – Job Description for CJP position had been posted and talked with Stephen King about it. Job

Description was taken down which may be a positive thing because need to have someone with grant

experience.

Harvey – Spoke with Frank Sottaceti who suspects Stephen King and other Board of Supervisors want

position to fade away and not be filled. He suggested to keep putting pressure on the county and take it

up with city for it to be shifted to city’s jurisdiction. Ruth your contact with city was not in vain.

Jenny – Suggested to take the issue to the media.

Kathleen – Reminded us that the county’s 1 st idea for jail was a $98 million price tag expansion what

officials were pushing for.

Future Programs for 1 st Monday Meetings for Public December 4 th

1.We could hear from Kevin Drexel about his interest and experience for housing issues with those at a

disadvantage with affordable housing.

2.Peggy Plass head of JMU’s Justice Study Program, and Head of Gandhi Center. She could present.

3. Nick Myers – Chaplain at Coffeewood. Working with inmates at Correctional Center.

4. Tom Stover – local person incarcerated for 4 years and willing to speak about life inside.

Kevin Drexel – If you were to speak on December 4 th , what would be key things you would cover? He

stated that he as been In Harrisonburg one year working with housing. Moved here to be closer to

daughter, and accepted to Seminary, but decided to go another direction. He stated that there are:

Gaps with Affordable Housing – He is an expert in development and financing. He has worked with

group homes with children. There is a gap here for reentry for formerly incarcerated. Looking at angels

how to approach this.

He personally suffered with addiction and got in trouble here in Harrisonburg and was incarcerated this

year. He learned a lot in 40 days. Conditions are awful. He did a lot of writing while inside and

formulated areas / gaps to be filled here from Harrisonburg, Staunton, and to Lexington.

Need a re-entry program that wouldn’t compete with GH.

R Jackson – Housing is non-existent. Affordable housing not a term people don’t understand. GH,

Oxford House, Salvation Army are some options. Individuals need to get job. Large agencies are

handling rentals. It is extremely difficult to find a place or someone who would rent to them.

Debra – Most are restricted because felons won’t be rented to.

Andrea – Affordable housing is technically defined as 30% of gross income.


Jenny – New York Governor Hogan, 2 days ago, passed law for “clean slate law” for felons to get

affordable housing for accommodations and employment.

Duane – CSB has housing coalition and oversees access to housing funds in the three Harrisonburg

communities.

Andrea – Dedicated to this and getting people who are Valley Homeless Connection Staunton/Augusta

County. CSB to get different organizations together to work. The issue is not availability. Housing gears

towards luxury. “Clean slate law” needs to be done at state level to see a change. It is a hot topic and

people need a place to live, which is a basic human need which is a crisis. Get people on board to

include. Stipulations on re-entry citizens.

Harvey – How do we get temporary housing for those in transition. Just talked to a woman who is

buying a 2-story house to rent a room. He feels we have a hospitality shortage and not just a housing

shortage.

Hogan – Has experience with homeless veterans and by providing management with those so house

doesn’t get destroyed.

LaDawn – Hospitality crisis is with churches, and would like to challenge and put pressure on the church

to rise to this need and opportunity because there are so many church buildings that sit empty all week.

Russ – Homeless people don’t have a friend. They too don’t have hospitality.

Jenny – Get a signed petition through change.org for statewide for people to sign affordable housing.

Andrea – There is really a housing crisis that there is not enough housing. There is also a stigma to

renting to someone to the unhoused person. A lot of “not in my backyard.” Agrees to putting pressure

on churches to be that place and break the stigma.

Ruth – Good discussions with lots more church could do , but there is a shortage of housing and suggest

Kevin Drexel to speak about housing issues. We need expert information.

Kathleen – Would like to hear more from Jim Hogan about management.

Hogan – Did get house in city and the managers had to assure neighbors it wasn’t going to be a crack

house and if a problem it would be addressed so this satisfied the neighbors.

Russ – (Peggy Plass) – Wanted name of Gandhi Center Director.

Harvey – Website Issue – Harvey thanked Mike Ramer for updating website.

Harvey - Mentioned that he appreciated Debra’s work on FB page to expand visibility in the

community.

Debra – we have 50 facebook followers, and would like to get 100 and make comments.

James – With regard to churches in SC where he used to live he had opportunity to work with men in

mission with mobile homes who worked with very little wage to have housing.

Kevin – Will speak on December 4 th about affordable housing. This is his expertise as he taught full

semester programs on this.

Harvey – Feel free to invite friends to this informative meeting.

Adjourned Meeting.

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