Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who’s also a co-chairman of the Guilford County Homelessness Task Force, said this week that the county is looking at buildings to purchase and transform into a new long-term substance abuse treatment center and mental health care facility.

He said it’s essential that the county move swiftly and he added that a suitable building may already have been found.

“I think we have our eyes on a building ready to go,” Alston said, adding that the layout of the building in question might make it relatively easy to transform into a drug treatment and mental health care facility.

Alston, who created the task force on homelessness last year, said that establishing a long-term care facility for those facing drug addiction and mental health issues was a necessary part of the effort to end homelessness in Guilford County.

He also said that to achieve the given goal – to have all of the county’s homeless off the streets by the end of the year – purchasing an existing building and renovating it into a long-term care facility made more sense than attempting to acquire land and construct a new building.

“Time is of the essence,” Alston said of the effort to end homelessness.

One thing driving his very aggressive timeline is the attempt to have solutions in place before the weather turns cold again in late 2023.

At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ first work session of the New Year, school officials and county facilities staff spoke on the difficulties of getting companies to bid on projects due to very high current demand in the construction industry.

Alston said preliminary estimates are that it would cost about $1.5 million to $2 million a year to operate the long-term care center and he added that there are a lot of revenue streams that could be tapped to build and run it.

Some American Rescue Plan Act dollars could help establish the facility and, to cover operations, the county may use money from a nationwide lawsuit against opioid companies.  The county could also use part of roughly $10 million a year that it currently sends to Sandhills Center, a mental health and substance treatment administrative entity based in West End, North Carolina.

The Guilford County Homelessness Taskforce has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Jan.11, at 4 p.m. in the McAdoo Conference Room on the third floor of the Truist Building at 201 W. Market St. in Greensboro.