Soon after Guilford County assembled a large committee meant to address the problem of homelessness last year, a homeless person attended the meeting, pulled Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston aside, and told him about some programs that the homeless really liked because they were working in South Carolina.

Alston said he was glad to hear it because he wants to hear every idea for solutions that he can.

At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners 2024 two-day retreat last week, the commissioners also got some information – this time from county staff – on how other counties across the state are addressing the problem of homelessness in their communities.

The ideas were provided by staff reports and written information given to the board.

Buncombe County, for instance, conducted a broad-based housing assessment in 2020 to determine the affordable housing needs for the county. County leaders then set a goal of creating 2,750 affordable housing units by 2030. After that, voters then approved a $40 million housing bond referendum to help meet that goal.

In Wake County, 2021 to 2023, the commissioners approved money for about 200 apartment units to be used for affordable housing. This year, Wake County approved a $2.4 million loan to help builders create 55 new affordable homes.

Forsyth County takes a different approach. That county has a home buyer down-payment assistance program and a housing rehabilitation plan to fix up older homes. The county also works closely with the City of Winston-Salem to provide home loan help and there’s also an Urgent Repair Program, meant to help people remain in their homes.

Mecklenburg County helps community partners coordinate to provide “services and subsidies” for struggling families so they don’t end up on the street.  Mecklenburg also has specific programs that target people who are homeless and have mental health issues or who have been frequent occupants of the jail.

In 2022, New Hanover County committed $15 million to affordable housing and took part in a joint city-county initiative with Wilmington. Also, the county has plans for Starway Village – a 278-unit multifamily development for low-income families.

One of the ideas discussed at the Guilford County Board of Commissioners retreat involved taking land owned by the county or municipalities and providing it at low or no cost for those willing to build affordable housing.

Guilford County is currently undertaking an attempt to establish new beds for the homeless in the county as well as implement a number of programs that deal with the root causes of homelessness such as substance abuse and mental illness.