5 QUESTIONS WITH VICTOR FELICIANO: Raising awareness of local needs

June 23, 2013 

Mike Haskey/mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.comVictor Feliciano, executive director of Valley Interfaith Promise, has started an online resource guide, HELPColumbus.com.

MIKE HASKEY

What's the story behind your new project, HELPColumbus.com?

HELPColumbus.com is a web-based resource guide. There are over 35 categories ranging from child abuse to utility assistance. Within each category, there is a list of local agencies and programs that provide assistance for that particular need. Columbus needed this type of website for a long time.

I approached Reggie Luther of TracSoft with the idea. Fortunately, he welcomed it. They produced the layout for the site. The site was launched on June 17. It already has over 1,300 views. The goal is to connect those in need to services, indeed. Anyone can use it. It's also a tool for social workers to help their clients by making the appropriate referrals.

What's the biggest misconception about homelessness in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Homelessness does not define a person. It is a situation that can be overcome with the right resources and strategy. No one strategy will produce the desired results. That's why there is a 10-year plan in place. The homeless population seen along Broadway, Second Avenue and the Riverwalk make up less than 5 percent of the overall homeless population in the area.

Unfortunately, the neg

ative perceptions (or realities) brought by the few often taints and penalizes the "hidden" majority of the homeless, such as families, from receiving the compassion, assistance and services they desperately need.

What's your favorite thing about organizing the Valley Interfaith Promise Bed Race?

My favorite thing about organizing the VIP Bed Race is that it allows me to host a fun (and somewhat silly) event to promote VIP, and to bring awareness to the serious issue of family homelessness.

I love seeing the crowd and the teams having a great time. I love seeing the teams take the competition seriously. Some teams structure their beds for speed, while others focus on creative designs, and others use the event to build team spirit. The next race is Saturday, February 22.

Your resume includes past experience as a news videographer. Do you use any of those skills in your current position?

I use my skills in producing the radio and TV spots for Valley Interfaith Promise and the VIP Bed Race. I select the photos/images/layout for print ads, newsletters and social media. I also hope to produce PSAs to promote HELPColumbus.com.

Aside from your organization, what's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Today, I would say it's the Circles in Columbus program, which is affiliated with Open Door Community House. It is a high-impact community strategy to end poverty, one family, one person, at a time. Relationships are built across economic class lines.

You can walk into a weekly meeting and witness a business executive from Aflac or TSYS interact with a single mother who is earning minimum wage. She lays out a plan to get more job skills training and schooling to take it to the next level. You might also see a college president sitting with a father whose goals are to earn a GED and enter the military. The program builds a community, a social circle of positive influence, to build a bridge to success in Columbus, or wherever God leads them.

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