Homelessness discussion on Saturday

Guest Post by Billie Guthrie

Below is some information about the upcoming Roundtable Discussion on Homelessness in Orange County.

A broad coalition of community groups and government officials will sponsor a second Roundtable Discussion on Homelessness on April 30th at New Hope Elementary School located at 1900 New Hope Church Road in Chapel Hill from 9am to 12pm. Registration and a continental breakfast will begin at 8:30am. All interested members of the community are invited to attend.

The goals of the event are:

1. To educate the community by dispelling myths and putting a face on the homeless,
2. To develop a long-term plan to end homelessness in Orange County
3. To encourage personal responsibility by inviting the community to address this issue individually.

Speakers, who will include local elected officials and advocates for the homeless, will provide federal, state and local perspectives on the needs and challenges facing the homeless. Attendees will participate in group discussions on topics including community ownership for ending homelessness; preventing homelessness; and moving people from homelessness toward self-sufficiency. Volunteers from the Dispute Settlement Center will help facilitate the small group discussions.

While registration is free and open to the public, advance registration is required. Interested community members may register online by clicking the link on the home page of the Town of Chapel Hill website: www.townofchapelhill.org. If you are in need of transportation or can not register online, please contact Billie Guthrie at 919-913-4166.

After the first Roundtable Discussion on Homelessness, held in November 2004, local leaders responded to community feedback by creating a Partnership to End Homelessness in Orange County. This planning group is charged with developing a process for Orange County to design a local 10-year plan to end homelessness.

The Partnership currently includes representatives from the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, as well as Orange County, the Triangle United Way and other non-profit organizations. Members include: Loryn Barnes (Chapel Hill), Margaret Cannell (Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce), Emily Dickens (Chapel Hill), Tara Fikes (Orange County), Sharon Freeland (Orange Congregations in Mission), Billie Guthrie (OPC Area Program and the Community Initiative to End Homelessness), James Harris (Town of Carrboro), Margaret Hauth (Hillsborough), Sharron Hinton (Orange County), Kristin Lavergne (IFC), and Linda Tuday (Triangle United Way).

Billie Guthrie is the Housing Coordinator at OPC Area Program and Chair of the Community Initiative to End Homelessness.



This was a very good session. Billie and everyone else who participated in putting it together should be complimented. They have put together an excellent slide show (digital of course) with statistics and personal commentation from the local homeless. We broke into three subgroups for the second half of the meeting. I feel incredibly fortunate to have selected the group assigned to discuss ways of helping the homeless become more self-sufficient. Billie and Alex Zaffron were in that group as well were 3-4 Orange County staffers. We are so lucky to live in a community that can possesses such talented and caring government officials. Those of us who were just there out of concern weren't too shabby either! The discussion covered economic development, affordable housing, land prices, education, literacy, health care plus more. It's clearly a systemic problem.

Terri or anyone else who attended,
Many continue to view the scheduled 2007 closing of Dix as the beginning of the end of a fairly good regional mental health care delivery system. I know Wake is planning on building a 40 bed acute care facility to handle some patients now being served at Dix. Unfortunately, the chronic patients (who often are comorbid substance abuse and psychiatric patients who are at high risk of ending up homeless), will be discharged to nonexistent community programs. Did it come up at this discussion what additional acute mental health beds we will have to create in this county? What plans do we have to establish a community based chronic treatment facility of our own?


The state of North Carolina is currently in the midst of Mental Health Reform which, in theory is focused on providing community based supports as opposed to inpatient treatment for folks living with mental illness, developmental disabilities or substance abuse disorders. Essentially, this legislation mandates downsizing of state psychiatric hospitals and the privitization of services that have historically been provided by local mental health centers called Area Programs (Orange-Person-Chatham Area Program, or OPC is the name of our local area program, for whom I currently work). Area Programs will become Local Management Entities (LME) and provide only limited services, such as triage, referral and in some instances, case management. Services, such as Assertive Community Treatment Teams, psycho-social rehabilitation programs and general case management are being divested and taken over by private organizations. OPC is also working to develop additional community resources to better serve target populations. Please visit the OPC website at www.opcareaprogram.org for more details about reform. It is a daunting process that I honestly don't always understand, but it is has been mandated by our state legislators. The premise is good...to provide services to consumers in the least restrictive environment. Hopefully, as it plays out in our community, we will have worked hard to develop the supports that our consumers need to thrive and be as self-sufficient as possible. And to directly answer your question, I know that OPC is currently working to develop an adult intensive support group home and there is already a crisis-based facility in Burlington that is used to deter full hospitilization for clients in crisis. And I believe that Freedom House will also be providing additional services to populations, such as you mentioned. It's a really good question and one that concerns us all.

Billie Guthrie

Billie, thanks for the response and the link. Losing Dix will be a huge adjustment. I have a lot of respect for you and everyone else out there working to provide a safety net during this transition phase of 'reform'.


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