Advocates with Housing First Charlotte Mecklenburg went to the Westerly Hills community meeting Tuesday evening with a plan to educate residents about the housing they want to build on a property off Wilkinson Boulevard for the chronically homeless.
Neighbors sent them away with an earful.
“I’m all for the homeless, and I’m all for helping these people. God’s called us to do that and I’m all for that, but it doesn’t seem consistent with Wilkinson Boulevard. It just doesn’t. It just doesn’t make sense,” one man said to neighbors’ applause. “The number one thing we should be concerned about is our children. Number two, it seems like the progress the Wilkinson Boulevard has been making is not consistent with a homeless shelter.”
Residents said they spent years fighting back against crime. The city has been working to revitalize the area, which is a gateway to uptown from the airport.
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One woman said, “So, we need jobs to build our community up. Me myself I thought we were building up the corridor for the airport.”
Dale Mullennix, with Housing First, said they looked at several properties. He said they have three months to decide if they want to buy the property off Wilkinson Boulevard.
“We are doing due diligence on this piece of property to decide whether it’s appropriate for us to build here,” he said. “There are certain things we have to have to be successful. We have to be zoned properly, the lot has to be large enough, has to be on a bus line, has to be near a grocery store. All of those things are very important to the people we serve.”
Mullennix said they’re looking for housing for residents with disabilities who have been homeless longer than a year, or multiples times.
He said in the last 18 months they’ve housed 350 chronically homeless people. Mullennix estimates another 300 residents need a place to live.
“We would like to build more apartments so that we can get more homeless people off the street which saves their lives and saves our community a lot of money,” he said.
Despite Mullennix’s attempt to inform residents that housing for the homeless won’t lead to a drop in property values, an increase in crime or loitering, neighbors weren’t swayed.
“One woman said “it’s not going to be safe for anybody to be in their homes with those people roaming the streets at night taking what they want.”
Another resident wanted to know why their community.
“Ballantyne is never looked at and there’s buses and stops and stuff and Matthews” she said.
Senator Joel Ford, who represents the area in the General Assembly, attended the meeting and said he cannot support the project.
“Clearly listening to the residents and this neighborhood they feel like this would be a negative impact and the last thing that we need to do is to have a project that would have a negative impact,” Sen Ford said. “We can still support homeless in this city but to have it concentrate on the west side is not a good idea.”
Ford said “what it means for me on the state level is not supporting it financially with state resources.”
Mullennix said Housing First will have to raise $10 million. The organization is also hoping for city and state funding.
“Well we have to consider funding. That’s one of the biggest issues. How do we pay for this? We would like city support. We would like state support. We didn’t hear that tonight” he said.
Did the vocal opposition they heard from neighbors stop the project?
Mullennix said “I’m not making a decision tonight.”