UW/HPCGC Press Conference: Homeless Task Force News

There was a full house this morning in a conference room at the Salvation Army Center of Hope in Greensboro, as the United Way of Greensboro and High Point and the Homeless Prevention Coalition of Guilford County held a press conference to 1.) (re)announce the formation of the Guilford County-Greensboro-High Point Task Force to End Homelessness, 2.) update the public on the Task Force’s purpose and progress; and 3.) announce the totals from HPCGC’s first-ever summer Point in Time Count of the homeless.

Task Force Chair Carole BruceThe Task Force is charged with developing a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. The plan will focus primarily on the chronically homeless, who make up 10-15% of the homeless population, but use 50% or more of the resources. Task Force Chair Carole Bruce described the Ten Year Plan as a “win-win situation” which will “reduce the economic burden in our community and do the right thing.”

Consultant Nancy Hunter (standing) and HPCGC Chair Karen Bridges (seated)Consultant Nancy Hunter gave an informative and detailed presentation entitled “Ending Homelessness in Guilford County.” Neil Belenky of United Way said that part of the job of the Task Force is to address the “myths” about homelessness and homeless people, such as: “The homeless don’t really want housing.”

The Task Force has scheduled two town Town Hall Meetings on Homelessness in Guilford County. The first is Sept. 12th at 6:00pm at Westover Church in Greensboro. The second is Sept. 19th at 6:00pm in High Point, location TBA.

More details will follow on this blog and at HPCGC’s web site.

>> Homeless count totals here.
>> News & Record coverage of the press conference here.

No Wind. Just Gone.

On Friday night, the Night Watch team visited the MLK/Lee property (more here, here.) We were early and no one had come back to sleep yet, but there were signs that someone was still staying there. This afternoon, less than 48 hours later, I drove back by to check on a friend and discovered that the camps had been cleared:

MLK & Lee St. in Greensboro.  Homeless Camps.  Before & After.  June & July 2006. MLK & Lee St. in Greensboro.  Homeless Camps.  Before & After.  June & July 2006.

I’ve known for a while that this was coming, but I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw. It was an eerie feeling to walk up to the place where a homeless friend was sleeping two nights ago on his bed in a shelter he’d built and now find only bare ground. My mind was racing and my heart was sinking, wondering what it must have felt like when he came back to sleep last night and found his bed and his belongings gone. I mean… I just cannot imagine.

I absolutely agree that land owners have a right to develop their own property. I recognize that this land did not belong to the homeless people who stayed there, and that they had no legal right to camp there. I acknowledge and am very thankful that City staff made repeated efforts to ensure that those staying on the property were informed that the land would be cleared, and that they were made aware of other possible options for the future. I am grateful for the concern and compassion showed by all the City folks I spoke to.

But I also know that the only reason that homeless people were camping on that property in the first place was because they had no place else to go. And my faith tradition tells me that I am my brother’s keeper. And if my brother (or sister) is homeless and lacks medical care, mental health treatment, substance abuse rehabilitation, affordable housing, or gainful employment, then as a member of this community, I share in the responsibility for making those things available. I still have a house and a bed, but I won’t rest easy until there’s a home for all of us.

And I can’t help wondering where our friends are sleeping tonight…

* * * * *

More before and after pictures here.

City clearing homeless camps at MLK & Lee; we look for residents

Yesterday, Katherine and I went back to visit the old Red Shield Lodge property at MLK and Lee, to see if we could find anyone else staying there. We found and talked with folks along MLK, and even met up with one guy walking across the property, but he just seemed to be on his way somewhere else.

Friday night during NightWatch, we visited the property and found one gentleman sleeping there. After we (accidentally) woke him up, we spent a while talking to him. We let him know that the City would be clearing the property soon, and talked about his options. Hopefully, he’ll follow up with the suggestions we gave him.