GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — For nearly a year, the Guilford County Homeless Task Force has talked about ways to help the homeless in our area.
Now, the talk is turning into action.
The county purchased the former Erwin Montessori Elementary School building on Bessemer Avenue in Greensboro. The goal is to turn the tornado-damaged school into a homeless center.
The site has been vacant for five years. County leaders are going to have to tame the overgrown property and get the building inspected, so they know what needs to be repaired and cleared of potential hazards. That should happen in the next 3 weeks.
The goal is to have construction started by late summer. Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chair Skip Alston wants to fast-track this because of how many people are in need.
“Help is on its way, and we’re going to address this problem,” he said.
Alston wants the people sleeping on our streets to know he is fighting for them.
“I ran into a young man on the other day,” he said. “I was standing on the corner, gave him some money. He said I just need some help. He said I really want to help. I have a trade, but nobody is wanting to help me.”
Alston believes the vacant building at 3012 East Bessemer Avenue is the solution. Right now, it doesn’t look safe or inviting with boarded doors, broken windows and problems with the roof and AC units.
“It’s getting worse by the day,” said Alston.
FOX8 crews spotted piles of debris and tents set up where people are sleeping on the property.
“A lot of them, again, they just need a helping hand,” said Alston. “They don’t need always a handout. They need somebody to be able to help them get back up on their feet.”
The county will give Guilford County schools $100,000 for the land. County leaders will use American Rescue Plan funds to clean it up and create short-term housing, job training programs and resources for people with substance abuse and behavioral health issues.
It’s a need FOX8 learned is dire. This is the call a Greensboro police officer put out over the radio this weekend: “Can you please make contact with Moses Cone and see if behavioral health has a spot,” the officer said. “Last time we attempted transport, which was a couple hours ago, they said they did not have any room.”
A Cone Health spokesperson confirmed its mental health facility has a capacity problem, partly because of the number of people seeking care.
“We’re going to address this problem, but we’re going to do it together as one Guilford County,” said Alston.
This isn’t the only facility in the works. In the next 30 days, county commissioners are looking to purchase a building to turn into a substance abuse treatment facility. Alston said if all goes as planned, it will have 70 beds and be open as soon as October.