Real homelessness requires real solutions

What do y'all think about the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership's new "Real Change from Spare Change" program? Folks have been talking for years about something like this to discourage "panhandling." The idea is to encourage folks to give money at approved kiosks instead of directly to individuals, and to use the money to help homeless people to get connected with the services they need.

Ever since living in Miami in the 80's when I got asked for money on every block, I personally decided to never give money to individuals in the street. It seems unfair to only help some (who randomly asked me) and not all who equally need help. I wish no-one ever had to ask for money, it's an unpleasant experience for all involved. I've also heard anecdotal stories about people being harassed for money downtown, which is clearly a problem, although I don't know how widespread it really is.

Folks gotta be more open minded

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, April 28th:

Last week a number of neighbors of Freedom House, an addiction and mental illness treatment center in northern Chapel Hill, came out to speak against a proposed expansion of the facility.
Most of their concerns centered on safety. One neighbor, Cingai Chen, summed up the rhetoric pretty well by saying, "We are very worried about some day those patients will create a safety concern for our community."

The operative words in that statement are "some day." The reality is that Freedom House has been in our community for more than three decades and there have never been problems. It's a well-run place with tremendous success stories and has never created anything resembling a crime problem. There's no reason to believe expanding the facility would change that.

The dark-skinned elephant in the room

Who woulda thunk it? I agree 100% with this statement by Fred Black:

Community activist Fred Black ... said many people who complain about panhandlers really are talking about something else: "being different in Chapel Hill."

"We have a perception issue," Black said. "We're talking about the perception of threats in downtown Chapel Hill. People use the verb panhandle as a convenient label for what they don't look like."
- chapelhillnews.com | Foy: 'I want people to vent', 2/21/07

I really hope this doesn't spark yet another tirade against the poor people who are forced to live on the streets due to misfortune, mental illness, and lack of community support. Instead of panhandling, let's talk about poverty in Chapel Hill and what we are doing about that!

New shelter re-location option

Here's a really good idea from the letters to the editor of the Chapel Hill News:

Former sorority house would be ideal shelter

As Chapel Hill struggles with the issue of homelessness, shouldn't citizens of the town seize upon an opportunity that has been laid at its feet? Hasn't anyone noticed that the Delta Zeta sorority house is up for sale? It would be the perfect answer to the question of where to put the next homeless shelter.

This structure is specifically for the housing of a large group of people. It has countless bedrooms and bathrooms for the needs of unrelated residents. It also has a commercial kitchen, dining hall, a large meeting area and office space. The building is in excellent condition, needing no substantial modifications to serve its new purpose, and it is ready for immediate occupancy. It is ideally located near jobs and transportation.

Zoning of the area is obviously not a problem since it had a similar use in the recent past, and the neighbors might actually consider the transformation from sorority house to homeless shelter a move in the right direction.

I heart downtown Chapel Hill

Is anyone else as sick as I am of the Chapel Hill News harping on how much downtown sucks? Last weekend there was a big spread mostly about how we are doomed (again). It was way too lengthy for me to dissect it all, but if you read it, please share your thoughts.

Here's one great letter to the editor in response:

How dare they be homeless?

I, too, am outraged at the panhandling that occurs on Franklin Street. Even all of the letters from Sunday's paper could not convey my disgust at those homeless. How dare they ask me for money! I mean, they chose to be homeless; it's their fault.

They buy drugs and alcohol and don't save their money like us good, righteous folks. They stand there smoking expensive cigarettes, and turn right around to ask me for change. They waste their money, so they deserve to sleep on freezing concrete. My rights are being trampled when they ask for money, and their poverty makes me so uncomfortable.



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