Greensboro agencies discuss new possible housing, services location for people experiencing homelessness

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Housing is one of the biggest problems in Greensboro, which makes it even harder for people experiencing homelessness to find a place to stay.

A building on the corner of Maple and Fourth streets could help solve the problem. Right now, it is home to the Parks and Recreation Department.

The city, Cone Health and nonprofits like the Salvation Army are talking about turning the 25,000-square-foot space into permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness.

The building is next door to a Greensboro police substation, across the street from the Department of Health and Human Services and a few blocks away from places to shop and eat. It would provide tenants access to some of the services they need and create a sense of community.

“It’s not uncommon for people in supportive housing to have a persistent mental health condition or be dealing with substance abuse disorders,” said Michelle Kennedy, a councilwoman and the executive director of the Interactive Resource Center.

Kennedy says people with the highest need would be living in the building.

“When you help people with the most need you naturally help people that have less needs,” Kennedy said. “If you are able to take the people with the highest need and stabilize their situations, it frees up resources, time, energy, all those things.”

“When you do put someone in housing it could be a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in hospitals and institutions,” said Brooks Ann McKinney, the director of vulnerable populations for the Cone Health system. “Housing is health care.”

A similar housing concept, called Moore Place, was opened in Charlotte in 2012. Stephen McQueen, the chief program officer, said they have a 95-98 percent retention rate for people who stay in permanent housing.

“We received some pushback and skepticism about opening this but we weren’t open six months before people saw what was happening and were so impressed,” McQueen said. “It is going to change minds and it is going to change minds.”

Paula Jackson lives down the street from the building in Greensboro. FOX8 asked her if she had any concerns about the neighborhood changing.

“I don’t know a whole lot of my neighbors but I don’t think it would make a difference,” Jackson said. “I really don’t.”

Jackson was happy to learn that the people experiencing homelessness would have access to services that could help them get back on their feet.

“Perfect, I think that’s terrific,” Jackson said.

In December or early January, the city council will vote on whether to donate the roughly $2 million space to the Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation will then help find funding to fix up the space for living.

Voucher programs and funding in housing will help pay for rent.

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