IFC Community House: Balanced Social Services?

Friday, August 13th, 2010

One of the common criticisms of the Inter-Faith Council’s (IFC) proposed Community House site is that the Homestead area of Chapel Hill already hosts more than it’s fair (“a four letter word for responsible growth”) share of social services.

Is that the case?

The IFC and UNC’s School of Social Work put together this map highlighting many of the social services throughout Chapel Hill/Carrboro.

This contrasts with a more local snapshot of services prepared by the folks at A Better Site – an advocacy group asking for a more transparent siting process.

The Community House facility, as currently proposed, will serve two purposes.

The primary goal is to house men as they transition from a state of dependency to independence within a highly structured program. Entrance into this program is selective, adherence to its strictures mandatory, monitoring compliance integral.

The secondary function of the facility is to serve as an emergency men’s shelter. It is this secondary function which has caused, at least from what I can tell, concern within the wider community.

While Orange County is responsible for housing folks in emergencies, that responsibility has been IFC’s to shoulder the last few decades. The IFC currently operates a shelter along with a soup kitchen (and other similar immediate services) in the old Chapel Hill Town Hall on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets. The long term plan was to move the soup kitchen down to Carrboro and move the emergency shelter out of the old Town Hall.

As I’ve commented before, while I support the mission of the IFC, find the goals of Community House more than laudable, it is the emergency shelter component of the IFC proposal I find most difficult to accept. The logistical issues surrounding moving folks back and forth from the shelter, managing the access to the shelter, etc. seem to make this site unsustainable. I’d like to see IFC rethink this part of the plan and possibly consider combining, as it is now, the new food service facility in Carrboro with an emergency shelter component. If not that, at least split the emergency shelter out of the current plan.

Of course, meeting the needs of those struggling the most is not and never was the obligation of the IFC. It’s incredible that Chapel Hill has such a caring, committed organization that stepped into the vacuum created by a dearth of governmental attention.

In fact, both Carrboro’s and the County’s elected folks continue to sit on the sidelines, quietly keeping out of these discussions, showing little or no political leadership in meeting this joint community obligation.

We are poised to hear more of folks concerns as the Community House initiative starts to move forward.

Monday, Aug. 16th, 5:15pm at Town Hall, the Town will host a Public Information Meeting: IFC Community House Men’s Shelter followed by a meeting by the Planning Board Shelter Committee Aug. 19th, 5:30pm, HR conference room Town Hall.

The first meeting will provide a current overview of where the Community House proposal is within the Town’s development review process.

The second meeting, which on the face of it, appears tangential to the approval of various stipulations influencing the construction of Community House, might actually be the more important of the two.

The Council, loathe to adopt specific siting criteria prior to the IFC’s request for a special use permit (SUP) asked the Planning Board to create general criteria for siting shelters within Chapel Hill. This bit of maneuvering created a bit of smokescreen which lent nothing to greater transparency (given the rocky start of this project, it’s troubling, even to supporters, that Council missed an opportunity to provide clarity). The Planning Board initially kicked the request back to Council citing the “vagueness” of what they were being asked to do. Tossing the shelter hot potato back, Council suggested a few exploratory paths of consideration.

The sub-text of the discussions between this Planning Board sub-committee and the public, and quite possibly their work product, will influence further the direction the Community House project takes, which makes Aug. 19th the more interesting of the two public meetings to me.

Live ‘Blog: April 13th IFC Community House Meeting

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Quick notes on this evening’s final IFC Community House public meeting prior to the IFC submitting a SUP (special use permit) to Town Council.

IFC is the Inter-Faith Council, a 501c3 non-profit, has provided a broad range of social services (list) over the last few decades, many of which, like emergency housing, are the really the responsibility of Orange County and other governmental bodies.

Our community is blessed to have such a caring and strongly supported organization as the IFC working on our behalf.

As of 7:45pm, 83 members of the public and about a dozen IFC staff, board members and support staff.

Council members attending: Laurin, Matt, Jim.

Previous attendees and other “usual suspects” : Mark Peters, Fred Black, Josh Gurlitz, Terri Buckner, Tim and Tina Coyne-Smith.

Phil Boyle, facilitator: “this is not a public meeting this is a community meeting that the public is invited to…”

Woman in front row: “What about taxes?” Phil: ” This isn’t a government meeting, you need to take taxes up with the Council.”

The process for the meeting seems a bit strained – too much overhead – too much reading of the riot act and not enough time allocated for interaction, question/answer and group responses.
(more…)

Jacobs to Strom: The Homeless Shelter Remains A Spasm in Chapel Hill’s Lower Back-side

Friday, July 13th, 2007

“The communication between the two governments within the same community has been spasmodic and not effective.”

— Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs after Chapel Hill Town Council member Bill Strom criticized the county this week for not working more closely with the town on finding new locations for a children’s museum, men’s homeless shelter and District Court.

Via the Chapel Hill News.

Bill kind of rattled on, as you can see [Granicus WMV], about the lack of coordination between the Town and the County – notably, in this case, working to re-site the Men’s Homeless Shelter.

What could’ve Bill done over his last eight years to make sure we don’t “spin our wheels” with the Orange County Board of Commissioners when the Town needs their help? Or that Council doesn’t end up with the BOCC using their “75 years” of collective political experience to “bury us 25 feet under in process and procedure” when we call for assistance?

His complaints about “burying” folks under “25 years of procedural manipulation” is ironic given Mayor Pro Tem Strom’s shelving of a request for real accountability on the Lot $$$5 development project.

Given the sad state of communications and cooperation between this Council and our current Board of Commissioners, Bill is right to call upon the Town and our Town Manager to create a Plan B for the Men’s Shelter’s relocation.

Eight, maybe ten years into the discussion, the BOCC continues to reject Homestead Road’s Southern Human Services Center as a viable location and we still don’t know where to site this necessary shelter. Yes, maybe we can wedge in a facility at the Town’s new Operation Center but, at least to me, that begins to verge on “warehousing” these folks out-of-sight in lieu of attacking the underlying problem head on.

By the way, Bill might have been a little testy because it was late and I had just reminded him that his grand obsession with the white elephant that is the Downtown Development Initiative’s Lot $$$5 project was going to hurt our community in order to bolster RAM Development’s bottom-line.

Whatever the reason, he’s had eight years to improve the lines of communications. I’ll be interested to hear how he proposes to improve the situation if he’s given another 4 years on Council.

Contact

Archives

RSS Feeds:

Government

Media

Local Politics

Categories:

Monthly:

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

AffordableHousing arts Campaign CarolinaNorth Carrboro ChapelHill Chatham CitizenWill CivilLiberties Community Development Downtown durham EconomicDevelopment Elections Endorsements environment Event Government Hillsborough LocalArts LocalPolitics Lottery Media MunicipalNetworking NationalPolitics OrangeCounty Orthogonal Ruminations sustainability SxSWi Technology Transportation UNC Uncategorized WeaverStreetMktLawn Zorch

Meta