There are a lot of questions about the IFC’s plans to site the new men’s homeless shelter on Homestead Road. As a candidate for Town Council, I have been reading concerned citizens emails and letters – almost 100 or so – on this project.

Executive Chris Moran has prepared the following Q & A based on a number of questions the nearby neighborhoods raised. I’ve converted the first section of the document to HTML and will work to finish that conversion soon. Until then, here is the complete response as a PDF.

AUGUST 14, 2009 RESIDENT QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES ABOUT COMMUNITY HOUSE

  1. It is our understanding that the Town is involved with the development of the IFC Community House project. We know that the community Design Commission met about this issue on June 17, 2009 and that the Town council is scheduled to meet about this matter on September 21, 2009. We also know that there is a file about this project at the Town’s Planning Department. The full extent of the Town’s involvement, however, remains unclear.

    • What has been the formal planning and development process for the IFC Community House project relocation?

    • The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) developed a formal partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill in 1985 when the Town Council offered the IFC a no-cost lease in the Old Municipal Building (OMB) to house homeless persons. The program began in congregations, then moved into the basement of the OMB and eventually expanded to the entire OMB after Council members approved a task force recommendation that the OMB be used as a homeless facility.

      The IFC formed another partnership with the Orange County Board of Commissioners in 1994 to plan and develop a new facility for homeless women and children initially called Project Homestart. The Board of Commissioners provided a no-cost 25-year three acre parcel on Homestead Road to the IFC at the Southern Human Services Center. Since HomeStart’s opening there has been no adverse or negative impact on neighboring areas. In fact, new neighborhoods have developed near and around our HomeStart campus. The Church of the Advocate will soon be building a new church in our vicinity.

      Here is some additional information about IFC’s history with shelter facilities:

      • In 1990, after a year-long renovation of the OMB, the IFC co-located the Community Kitchen and Community Shelter at the OMB officially known as Community House;
      • The IFC opened its HomeStart facility, originally known as Project Homestart, on Homestead Road in 1998 for homeless families;
      • After HUD funding ended for HomeStart in 2003, the IFC Board of Directors reorganized the HomeStart program for homeless women and children;
      • The new Homestart—whose model is based on the vision of the Planning Committee—has the mission of “providing a safe, structured home for homeless women and children, helping them to access community resources and offering everyone on-going support to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness” ;
      • And the IFC relocated single women guests from the downtown Community House facility to HomeStart during the same year.
    • There have been myriad community meetings and task forces appointed by Chapel Hill mayors since the year 2000 to find a permanent location for Community House. A formal agreement and special task force was created by Mayor Kevin Foy and IFC’s Board President in 2004 “to address homelessness and new facilities”. The Board of Directors came to three major conclusions based on task force recommendations during this process.

      • The Old Municipal Building was no longer adequate for IFC needs
      • The Town of Chapel Hill decided that the OMB was needed for other town offices
      • New facilities would consist of a men’s shelter and a separate building/location for combining IFC food programs (Community Kitchen and Food Pantry)
    • In May of 2008, after a long search for a permanent location for Community House, the UNC Chancellor, Chapel Hill Mayor and IFC Executive Director announced a new partnership and property location near the United Church of Chapel Hill on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The Chancellor announced that the University would lease 1.66 acres to the Town on a long-term basis. “The Town would then make the site available to the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) for the construction and operation of a new men’s residential facility.”

    • When will a final determination (i.e., approval or disapproval) be made on this project?

    • The IFC will be applying for a special use permit (SUP) for the Community House project sometime this fall. Final Town approval is expected in the spring or summer of 2010. Timing is dependent on the Town’s planning process.

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