Downtown’s Homeless: What is the message? Who is the messenger?

Monday, October 30th, 2006

…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me…

While I was in Boston last week, the DPC’s (Downtown Partnership) Kiosk Giving Task Force morphed into the Downtown Outreach Work Group.

As the next step, the Downtown Outreach Work Group recommends a public-private partnership effort amongst the Town of Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina, the Downtown Partnership, the human service agencies, the downtown property and business owners, religious organizations, the media and others, to jointly develop “the message” to request that citizens not give money to panhandlers in downtown Chapel Hill but to encourage them to give to the agencies that address the human service needs of downtown.

Once the message is clearly articulated, then the means and materials needed to address the target audiences will be identified. This is similar to efforts across the country typically called Real Change Not Spare Change campaigns. Raleigh is our closest neighbor that has adopted this program.  In Denver, they have adopted the Give A Better Way campaign, www.giveabetterway.com; and there are a number of other variations on this type of educational initiative.

Though encouraging on the face of it, I’m a bit troubled that this Town-sponsored group has taken on the “official” mantle of managing downtown’s homeless population issue with very little discussion.

The DPC’s charter is business-oriented, their issues business-directed. Panhandling is antithetical to their core directives. I’m concerned that this in-built bias won’t result in further draconian efforts to drive “undesirables” from downtown.

Today’s thoughtful analysis by Council member Sally Greene highlights the potential pitfalls in her excellent post Panhandling and Community Values.

Not all approaches are appropriate as Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker article “MILLION-DOLLAR MURRAY:Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage.” points out.

Sure, I doubt our community would stand for criminalizing homeless support programs ala Las Vegas’ criminalizing feeding the hungry but it might blindly accept the recommendations of an important sounding group, like the Downtown Partnership, whose make-up and charter are not representative of the town as a whole.

Sally, Kirk and Shearon-Harris

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

Following up on my post Shearon-Harris Offline: Who Tripped Over the Wire?, I’d like to direct your attention to two of our wonderful local ‘bloggers.

Sally Greene has two great posts on the Shearon-Harris nuke plant safety issues and the resulting spin.

First, FAIRWarning

Tonight I went to the briefing in Pittsboro on the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant, its serious and repeated fire safety violations, and the legal action that was taken today by NC WARN, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and the Union of Concerned Scientists to seek an emergency enforcement action from the NRC.

Second, today’s absolutely wonderful deconstruction of Progress Energy’s spin, in Shearon Harris: beneath the spin

In response to this week’s events, the community relations manager of Progress Energy was kind enough to write yesterday in an effort to persuade me that the Shearon Harris plant is safe and law-abiding. But I am sorry: this version doesn’t fit the facts. Here is Mr. Clayton’s memo, annotated by Pete MacDowell of NC WARN.

The sharply observant Kirk Ross (Exile, Cape Fear Mercury) follows the money in his post from Exile on Jones Street (why “on”?) titled Duke wants you to pay for a plant they may never build

Duke Energy and Southern are working on a new Nuke project in Cherokee County S.C. No permits have been issued, no construction work on the plant has started. They won’t even submit a request to the NRC for another year at the earliest. In fact, the plan is for the plant not to be online until 2016. Then, there’s the whole idea that a new nuke is really going to happen. Some folks like ‘em. Some folks don’t. Some folks really, really don’t.

Greene on Ending Chronic Homelessness in Orange County

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Council member Sally Greene is passionately pursuing a ten year plan to end local homelessness. Her participation, along with other valiant volunteers, gives me hope that the goal is achievable.

Tonight, she reports on the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness’ efforts.

Of note, they’ve agreed to “emphasize the chronically homeless in our planning (but not at the expense of current efforts to help all the homeless).”

As documented by Sally, folks chronically homeless account for the lionshare of service consumption. Dealing compassionately with this key segment of the homeless population not only honors our better angels but makes excellent fiscal sense – strained resources can be freed up to address the larger population.

There’s more work for the OCPEH but this difficult decision has significantly advanced their cause.

Lucky #21?

Monday, May 8th, 2006

As noted tonight by Council member Sally Greene, Chapel Hill Town Council

raised our collective fists in the air and said “We object.” We passed a resolution in support of impeaching the President

The impeachment resolution was proposed by Elders for Peace of Carol Woods.

I’m happy to note I was signature #21 on their petition.
Now, if we could only get this guy to sign on.

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