Mecklenburg County may intervene in an ongoing dispute between charities that serve the county’s homeless and business leaders longing to make North Tryon Street into Charlotte’s next boom corridor.
At Tuesday night’s Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioner George Dunlap asked County Manager Dena Diorio to mediate in discussions between NorthEnd Partners, a nonprofit promoting North Tryon Street’s revitalization, and the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministry Center, two charities that some want to move to make way for redevelopment.
Development supporters say the hundreds of homeless people who frequent the shelters will discourage developers and homebuyers and frighten customers of new businesses. The charities say they have no plans to move. The Men’s Shelter recently launched a $7 million campaign to renovate its 2 1/2-acre site just outside the Interstate 277 loop.
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Commissioners will take part in a Nov. 30 summit at the Extravaganza Depot, where city and county leaders will discuss how to serve Charlotte’s homeless. In an email, Mark Middlesworth, depot owner and NorthEnd Partners president, asked officials to consider how other cities have created one-stop campuses where the homeless eat, sleep and access other services.
This is a population that already feels like nobody wants them.
Mecklenburg County commissioner George Dunlap
Dunlap fears tempers surrounding the issue could flare.
“This is a population that already feels like nobody wants them,” he said. “I just think that if there’s a way to kind of mediate that situation, it might not appear to be so ugly.”
Diorio agreed but said it was too soon to comment since the topic had just come up Tuesday night. Dunlap hopes a compromise can be reached that will be “a win-win for all parties involved.”
He made his suggestion during a presentation about county efforts to quell homelessness. Stacy Lowry, who leads the county’s community support services division that provides services to veterans and the homeless, said the Housing Our Heroes campaign has housed 342 formerly homeless veterans this year.
A second program, Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg – which aims to end chronic homelessness by December 2016 – has housed 165 people from Feb. 1 to Sept. 30, she said. In October, the Friends of Fourth Ward neighborhood group raised $13,346 for the program.
Positive movement aside, community support services will soon face new challenges. The county will completely move out of the Hal Marshall Center in 2017, when it will go to developers. Today, the building’s annex houses the homeless resource center, where churches take turns providing meals for the homeless.
County staffers are trying to find where the program will go once the building is empty. “There’s a lot of discussion around it but we just don’t have a solution yet,” Diorio said.