The Guilford County Board of Commissioners met on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to address some issues related to funding for housing programs, and, at the very end of the meeting, a homeless man wanted to have his say too.
He called out loudly to the board members in the small conference room in the Old Guilford County Court House and asked if they wanted to hear what an actual homeless person had to say about the issues.
This was a work session in the Carolyn Q. Coleman Conference Room and the board does not hear speakers from the floor at those meetings. So, when the homeless man who had walked into the room shouted something out, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston looked startled and concerned.
However, once Alston understood what the man was saying, Alston responded calmly that he did want to hear what the man had to say and that he would speak to him now that the meeting was over.
From the way the encounter started, it seemed like it might end up being confrontational; however, Alston said that wasn’t the case. He spoke with the homeless man after the meeting as well as with another homeless person who had accompanied him.
Alston said he’s very glad he did.
According to Alston, the homeless man told him that if the county officials were going to be making a new attempt to solve the county’s homeless problem, then they should have input from actual homeless people – not just elected officials and the heads of community organizations who are working with the homeless.
Alston said, “He told me about a program in Greenville, South Carolina and said it was working very well.”
The man told Alston that Guilford County officials should look into what was happening there and at other successful programs around the country.
“I told him, ‘That’s exactly what we’re going to do,’” Alston said. “We’re going to be listening to everyone and seeing what’s working and finding solutions.”
The chairman told the man that county staff and Greensboro and High Point staff had already been instructed to research what programs were working in other places and bring those ideas back to a Guilford County Task Force On Homelessness meeting that will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Alston said the talk was very informative and he learned several things he didn’t know before.
“He gave me a lot of good information,” the chairman said, adding that the homeless man also provided him with contact information for someone running the program in Greenville.