The city’s plan to place 30 Pallet houses on the only ball field for disabled children is such a snafu, it’s hard to know where to start.
The City Council voted to spend $535,000 to buy 40 Pallet shelters without knowing whether it would even be legal to house people in the shelters in North Carolina, and according to City Councilmember Zack Matheny, the city did not have approval from the Fire Department inspectors when the shelters were ordered.
Then the City Council voted to spend $200,000 on management and security for the project without knowing where in Greensboro the Pallet shelters were going to be placed. Some councilmembers knew – Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said she knew but Matheny said he didn’t.
At the Nov. 15 City Council meeting, City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba said, “Because of the sensitivity and vulnerability of the residents. It’s important to keep the address private rather than make it public.”
When the City Council bought the Regency Inn to house the same sensitive and vulnerable population, that was not kept secret. Every year the city funds “white flag” emergency shelters for the same homeless population and those sites are not kept secret.
So why was this particular project to serve the homeless population kept secret even from city councilmembers who were asked to allocate $735,000 for the project?
Neither the North Carolina public records law nor the open meetings law has an exception allowing a public body to keep information secret because of “sensitivity and vulnerability.” The idea that the City Council would make decisions to spend $735,000 on a project and not demand to know the location is a travesty.
When the city councilmembers were running for office last summer, not a single councilmember said that they were in favor of more secrecy and less transparency in city government. But this project has so little transparency that the city staff would not even reveal how the $735,000 was going to be spent to city councilmembers who opposed the project.
The real reason Jaiyeoba and Director of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development Michelle Kennedy didn’t want to reveal the site of the project is obvious. Kennedy chose to locate this temporary village to house the homeless during the winter on the only ball field in Greensboro that was designed and built to be accessible to the disabled community.
The Pomona field was built with $200,000 in private funding. It has a specialized surface on the infield designed for wheelchairs and walkers. The outfield, which is grass, was leveled so that those using wheelchairs and walkers could use it.
The organizations that use this field including Special Olympics and The Arc of Greensboro were not contacted much less consulted about the decision to turn this unique field into a temporary village to house the homeless this winter.
What happened to transparency? What happened to meeting with stakeholders? Certainly, the organizations that currently plan to start using the field in March are stakeholders. The Pallet homes according to some information will be on the site until April, which is going to make using the field in March impossible – and for these disabled children there is no alternative in Greensboro. They can either play on the Pomona field or not play at all.
It would be interesting to know when the decision was made to place the Pallet shelters on the ball field at Pomona. We know it was made before Nov. 15, because on Nov. 15 Jaiyeoba told the City Council that the number of homes had been reduced from 40 to 30 because that was all that would fit on the site. So, by Nov. 15, the city staff was so committed to this site that it could not move the project to a larger site that would accommodate the 40 shelters the City Council had allocated funds to purchase.
It is simply not true that there is no other location in Greensboro where these Pallet shelters could be placed, so why is the city so committed to using the only field for disabled children in Greensboro?
The answer is simple: Because the City Council is comprised of idiots!
This city council just continues to amaze me with their assbackwards thought process. What is even worse are the assbackwards people that to continue to vote these same jokers in office. You voted them in now enjoy the continued snafus that they bring. I gotta go puke.
Idiots continuing to run GSO. All should be removed from office. Kennedy needs to go back to the Left Coast from where she came.
Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention. I spent the better part of one day this week trying to contact advocates and council people alike to halt this from happening. The largest monetary donation to build this “field of dreams” came from the Grasshopper organization and no one even notified them of this decision. This is what i refer to as a crying shame. These children and their family members fight for everything they need and an Eagle Scout project devised to serve not only his brother, but a whole community of our children was to be devastated in one fell swoop with very little knowledge shared with the public or the advocates that helped make this happen in the first place. Homelessness is indeed a problem for those experiencing it, especially in the winter, but there has just got to be a better location for this pallet city to be placed. PLAY BALL!
Consider Heath Park, near Lowdermilk Street in the Bessemer area.
Gee, Barber Park might be an excellent place to set up the hobo sheds and leave Pomona Field alone for the disab6 for whomnit was designed.
Agree, Barber Park perfect location
You are asking very important questions. Horrible decisions being made by the City of Greensboro. Citizens rise and make them answer. The only way.
I’m in full agreement with your editorial. It is totally inequitable to endanger a field that has been dedicated to the use of special needs individuals for sports. There are very few facilities in the county or city that allow those with physical limitations to participate in outdoor sports activities and taking away the use of this location for a “pallet city”, even if only on a temporary basis (that could cause harm to the facilities and field) makes absolutely no sense.
There are other locations throughout the city that are available, in fact, it seems when this idea was first proposed a parking lot on Elm-Eugene St. was the suggested location. The people who will be housed in these “pallet homes” are currently un-housed so it doesn’t seem they’d be really choosey about the location of the “city” as long as it’s near a bus line, police response is nearby, bath and shower facilities, as well as meals, could be provided.
I think this is a grand experiment and it may work, but every effort must be made to ensure it gets off to a good start with positive energy behind it. By taking away a sports field and facilities needed by young people who already have limited choices for outdoor play in this area I feel the choice of this location is not fulfilling that need.
Put them at the coliseum parking lot, plenty of room, no one goes there anyway.
Use one level of a parking deck downtown
Why not put one of these pallet homes at the homes of each council member as a sign of support for the homeless. That way they can show their compassion with the homeless. Better yet, have each council member sleep one night in one of these “homes”.