There’s been growing concern among business owners and others who work and live in downtown Greensboro due to issues emanating from the Interactive Resource Center – a facility where homeless people can gather during the day to do things like check emails, take showers, read or just get a break from the heat.

Those who’ve driven by or stopped by to make donations in recent months have often seen a massive collection of people outside the center, and now many of those who work in or frequent the area are expressing fear for their safety due to the activities of some homeless people who congregate at the Center or wander away from it.

While the center provides a needed service, business owners and others in downtown Greensboro have, in recent months, been very vocal about their concerns regarding a number of disturbing incidents where homeless people, at or near the Center, panhandle in a harassing way, sit on the steps in front of businesses, attempt to gain access into gated communities or make employees scared to walk to their cars parked outside.

The Center isn’t a homeless shelter – people don’t stay overnight. Instead, it is a day center. The Center is officially described as “a place for people experiencing homelessness to congregate in a safe space, connect with important services, and join in fellowship with one another.”

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, after hearing many, many complaints from those who work and live near the Center, called a meeting for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 8. He said he felt compelled to call the meeting.

The IRC is really more a city of Greensboro issue than a county issue, Alston said; however, his constituents were very unhappy with the current situation.

“It’s in my district,” Alston said. “I was surprised that a meeting had not been called already after the recent string of complaints, so I called one for Monday afternoon.”

Alston also said that several commissioners would be at the meeting as well as Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and other Greensboro City Council members in addition to other leaders who have a say over what happens in downtown Greensboro and at the Interactive Resource Center.

  The meeting, which will be held in a county-owned building, isn’t open to the public.

Two county commissioners from districts near the area and Commissioner Kay Cashion, who’s the county’s at-large commissioner, have been invited and are expected to attend.

Mayor Vaughan stated recently that the Interactive Resource Center was not designed to handle as many people as are currently using it, but she added that it would be a big mistake to close it down since it provided such essential services to a highly vulnerable group of people.

Kim Grimsley-Ritchy, who often helps out at the IRC, has been coordinating the effort meant to get some response from local leaders.  She detailed some events that had left her frightened, and, in one bolded subhead of her email, warned: Something horrific is going to happen in our area very soon!

In another long email string of complaints sent to multiple local leaders, concerns were expressed by a business owner who works next door to the IRC on Murrow Boulevard.

“I have been practicing here for 31 years and my dad built this building in 1970/71,” the owner wrote. “This area/building is definitely ‘home’ for me. I’m here more than where I sleep!  We all have the same stories and I hope we are able to come up with a resolution with the city. At a later date, I will discuss some of my stories; but today I will just send a few photos from my surveillance camera per Kim’s request of what was happening this past Friday at my office.”  (See photograph above.)

The email went on to say that the owner had to put up fencing “to stop the repulsive behavior occurring behind my building.”

She added, “I’ve never wanted fencing around my building, but it was necessary to protect my property. The small corner that was not fenced in due to being able to gain access to my roof has been the recent issue. I think videos and pictures paint an undeniable story of our experiences.”

Alston said before the meeting that he wasn’t sure what the answer to the problem would be but that he hoped that, by calling a meeting and getting all the stakeholders together, some effective solutions could be worked out.