It may seem like common sense that, when helping the homeless population, it is necessary to go to them and not expect them to come to you.
But evidently it is something of a revelation to the Greensboro City Council, which spends millions of dollars each year in an attempt to provide shelter and services for the homeless population in Greensboro.
Councilmember Zack Matheny said he finally got a caseworker to come to Center City Park with him and said that when a homeless man in a wheelchair said all he wanted was shelter, the caseworker said she could help if he would call her and gave him a card. Matheny said he pointed out that this person in a wheelchair didn’t have a phone, and the caseworker, whose office is on East Wendover, told him to come see her at her office.
Matheny said it was “insensitive” for the caseworker to expect a homeless man in a wheelchair living in a downtown park to call her, and even more insensitive to ask him to wheel himself down East Wendover Avenue to come visit her.
Matheny’s comments led to a discussion on City Council about possibly providing office space for caseworkers in the downtown area where there is a large homeless population.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “It would be helpful if we had space downtown. We have that little space in the library that used to be a coffee shop.”
She asked City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba to look into providing that space to one of the city’s partners in dealing with the homeless population. Jaiyeoba said the city had offered the space but was turned down because of the cost of renting the space.
Vaughan said that the rent could be considered an in-kind donation.
Councilmember Hugh Holston suggested providing space in the Cultural Arts Center.
Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development Michelle Kennedy said that one of the Pallet Shelters could be moved downtown and turned into an office.
It will be interesting to see if this discussion results in any action.