For a fleeting moment, it appeared that sanity would prevail at the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18 in the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber – but the moment passed.
Four people spoke against allocating the $777,000 in homeless prevention funds to the same old nonprofit organizations that have been receiving this funding for years.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said she agreed with some of the points the speakers had made and said, “One of those is how do we ensure that these organizations that are providing beds and shelter are actually providing the beds and shelter we think they are?”
Thurm said that she understood the shelters were still operating at 50 percent capacity as they had during COVID-19 restrictions.
Director of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development Michelle Kennedy said, “That is true, the shelters in the city limits are operating at 50 percent capacity.”
Thurm said, “It feels like we are leaving those with the highest level of needs on the street.”
She said that she had been told one organization only housed one family last year.
City Councilmember Zack Matheny said, “The more I’ve gotten up to date the last two months and more knowledgeable about this whole problem the more disappointed and concerned I’ve become, and it’s been eye-opening about what a cluster it is.”
Matheny said, “We’ve got to hold folks accountable.”
Councilmember Goldie Wells said, “Since the last meeting when we voted to buy the pop-up shelters, there has been just a lot of talk, a lot of questions, and I’ve become really concerned about it because some of these are operating at 50 percent.”
Wells asked, “Should we be giving money to people who aren’t doing what they are supposed to do?”
Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said, “Tammi, thank you. We need to really look at this. I know some of them are not even housing people and we say housing is our top priority.”
Johnson added, “I would not want to vote on this tonight. I’d like to hear from the CEOs.”
However, Mayor Nancy Vaughan quashed the idea of not approving the allocations. She noted that the allocations had been on the agenda in August and were delayed because the city was hoping to partner with Guilford County.
She said that there was a freeze warning and said, “We really can’t put this off any further. We have to move forward with shelters for people who are on the streets today that need housing for the winter.”
Wells said, “If you find out what you are doing is not the right thing then you just don’t go ahead and do it.”
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I, too, worry about not passing this tonight and those left out in the cold will be left out in the cold.”
Johnson said, “Although I would like to have more information, I’m not going to risk somebody freezing.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower said that she knew the organizations did the work they were supposed to do because she talked with them on the phone.
The City Council passed the $777,000 in funding on two votes – an 8-1 vote with Matheny voting no and an 8-0 vote with Councilmember Hugh Holston recused.