Battle lines are being drawn on the issue of what to do about the growing homeless population in downtown Greensboro.

President of Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) and District 3 City Councilmember Zack Matheny is attempting to take some positive action toward ameliorating the problem.

City Manager Tai Jaijeoba has been joined by District 1 City Councilmember Sharon Hightower in supporting the status quo of holding endless meetings and discussions about the city, county, state and national problem.

Matheny sent out an email last week inviting anyone who was interested to a walk-through of Center City Park on Wednesday, Aug. 10.  Matheny included city and county officials as well as representatives of the business community in his request and reportedly had a good response, although no city councilmembers attended.

On Thursday, Aug. 11, Matheny sent out another email inviting city and county officials as well as the business community to a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 11:30 a.m.

Matheny attached an email he had received from Tara Reaves, one of the owners of the ‘Cille and ‘Scoe restaurant at 312 S. Elm St., about some of the issues they have had recently.  One involved a woman “strung out on some sort of drug” who caused a scene on the restaurant’s patio.  Police were called and, according to Reaves, “The whole process last about two hours right in the middle of our weekend dinner service and created an environment where not only were people not sitting outside, but they were crossing over to the opposite side of the street to avoid walking by our restaurant.”

The second incident described by Reaves is worse – where a man in wheelchair created a scene on the patio, refused to leave and “This eventually lead to him defecating on our patio – yes … in broad daylight he pooped and peed on our property.”

Reaves states, “We readily communicate with the ambassadors, and we genuinely try to be kind and patient with the homeless population.”  But she adds, “Our homeless population has become a massive issue for business.”

Hightower objected to Matheny starting another committee and in an email she states, “As the City representative on the COC [Continuum of Care], all of these concerns are discussed to find solutions.  As the body of homeless providers, they are keenly aware of what is occurring, but solutions aren’t easy. This issue of homelessness is impacting every sect of the City and we must approach using a wholistic effort.

“What is the purpose of the meeting on 8/25 beyond the current issue?  I am open to hearing and speaking with everyone, but see no need to start any other committee.”

In her email Hightower also states that there is a need for more mental health services and “more housing for unsheltered persons, including families.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan responded to Matheny’s email by stating that she would be attending the meeting on Aug. 25.