Guilford County government is planning to assemble a major task force of county, city, and state officials to finally come up with a holistic, coordinated solution meant to help alleviate the persistent problem of homelessness in the county.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said that, in addition to forming the Guilford County Task Force On Homelessness, he wants the county to use $8 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) money to address the problem.
On Monday, Sept. 19, Alston and Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan met with community partner organizations that fight homelessness. Alston said it became clear to him that, though people were addressing the problem with good intentions, no one was operating on the same page.
“I listened for two hours and everyone has their own plans, their own shelters, their own workers – there is no coordination,” he said.
Alston said he’s forming the new task force to finally deal with the issue that has been persistent in Guilford County for years. He said it will include several county commissioners, the mayors of Greensboro and High Point and also at least one state representative.
Alston also said he is committed to spending $8 million for the coordinated strategy that is created.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will need to vote to use ARP money to address the problem, however, Alston said he’s confident, based on his conversations with other elected officials, that the votes will be there to do that.
On Monday, after the meeting, Alston was discussing the plans with other local leaders and he said that Guilford County Manager Mike Halford, Vaughan and Commissioner Kay Cashion were all enthusiastic about the proposal.
He added that the problem is urgent, so he would like to see the task force meet next week for the first time.
He said state representation on the task force was important because the $8 million he expects the county to approve toward the problem will just be a start.
The goal, he added, is to completely eliminate homelessness in Guilford County.
Alston said that annual federal US Department of Housing and Urban Development money isn’t enough either.
“HUD gives us $2.8 million a year and that’s nowhere near enough,” Alston said.
Alston said a unified effort is what’s called for now.
“We need a holistic approach and we need to bring in some experts, some professionals,” he said. “We need to spend more money on the problem and we need to have everyone talking to each other.”
“We won’t solve this problem on our own,” he said of county efforts.
Alston said one thing Guilford County needs is workers riding around at night looking for homeless people and offering immediate help and shelter.
“We should be searching for the homeless,” he said.
One thing that has spurred Alston to action, he said, is that he attended the Mary J. Blige concert at the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday, Sept. 17 and, on the way home, he saw a homeless person sleeping under a bridge.
“We should never have that in Guilford County,” Alston said.