GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C (WGHP) — Guilford County leaders are struggling to address concerns with people facing homelessness in multiple cities.
“I’d rather give the money to them than keep the money in our savings account and they die on the streets,” Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chair Skip Alston said.
Leaders in Guilford County, High Point and Greensboro work together on a homeless task force, but there is some disagreement on giving priority for resources.
The mayor of Greensboro says they are looking at ways to prioritize residents of the city to get resources first. The future High Point mayor says that could be a possibility there, too. But the Guilford county commissioners chair says that is not a solution to their money concerns.
“I can understand the situation that the city is in, but we are all in this together,” Alston said.
Homelessness is something personal for Alston.
“I was homeless once upon a time, and I needed help, and I had friends that helped me … that is what we need to be able to do to the next person that knocks on the door and says, ‘I need help,’ and if we help them, they will in the future be able to help someone else because they have been there,” Alston said.
This week marks one year of the Homeless Task Force in Guilford County. Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan says it’s encouraging that the county is now a part of finding a solution.
The county allocated $8, million and they have spent nearly all of the money to give to Greensboro, High Point and agencies in those cities for homelessness resources.
“I am encouraged that there are things we are doing now … that we are at the table to keep doing,” said Cyril Jefferson, a member of the task force. “Also appreciate how much learning we’ve done and listening to other communities who are trying out innovative ideas and getting it right.”
The group fell short of their goal to add 250 beds in the county. Now, the county and cities together plan to come up with $300,000 to provide emergency hotel vouchers to keep people out of the cold this winter.
Community leaders say the goal right now is not just providing emergency shelter but working towards more independence and long-term housing.
“There is no way you talk about those experiencing homelessness without talking about housing insecurity, without talking about our housing stock,” Jefferson said. “Quite frankly, you or I could be in the same situation, and we need support and services that look at it from that point of view.”
A new shelter in High Point is in the works that would double the number of beds in the community. But will residents of those cities get priority to stay at shelters in their city? That’s still undecided.