Orange County

IFC wants to change Chapel Hill’s homeless shelter. So why is it postponing the plan?

The 52-bed IFC @ SECU Community House at 1315 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in northern Chapel Hill replaced a longtime shelter at 100 W. Rosemary St. downtown.
The 52-bed IFC @ SECU Community House at 1315 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in northern Chapel Hill replaced a longtime shelter at 100 W. Rosemary St. downtown. tgrubb@newsobserver.com

The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service won’t seek changes to its men’s shelter this year after all, it has announced on its website.

A community meeting originally scheduled to talk about the changes will be held as scheduled Monday at United Church of Chapel Hill.

The IFC’s SECU Community House opened three years ago on Homestead Road in northern Chapel Hill. It has provided homeless men with a transitional housing program that takes those who stay in the program through three stages to self-sufficiency and a more permanent place to live.

This spring, the agency proposed a new model that would provide emergency shelter and get men off the street and into more permanent housing as soon as possible. The new program, sometimes called “housing first,” would have provided services to help the men live more independently once they were in a more stable setting.

Neighbors and Town Council members responded to the proposed change with questions and criticism. The council would have to approve any changes to the shelter’s existing permit.

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The Good Neighbor Plan, an agreement between the IFC, town and nearby residents, put safeguards in place when the 52-bed shelter was approved in 2011. It included a limit on the number of emergency cots that could be used for men not in the transitional program during inclement weather, as well as requirements for accessing the shelter’s services.

Jackie Jenks
Jackie Jenks Leslie Rabine Contributed

Stephani Kilpatrick, director of residential services, has said Community House helped 37 men find stable housing from April 2017 to March 2018. Just over 100 men moved out, some of whom are living outdoors or with family or friends, she said.

The latest plan proposed 26 changes that would have made it easier for clients to access the shelter and allowed the emergency cots to be used year-round.

IFC executive director Jackie Jenks has said the proposed model would be more effective and cost-efficient in addressing Orange County’s homelessness. The Good Neighbor Plan’s restrictions make it difficult for the IFC to serve some men, she said, and meet the community’s need for emergency shelter.

“The [Good Neighbor Plan] update was intended to be a starting point to facilitate an inclusive, thoughtful, transparent community conversation about how we can end homelessness for people currently unable to access Community House,” Jenks said in an online post Friday.

“We have received valuable input from community members at meetings to date,” she said. “However, we want to ensure broader dissemination of accurate information to get constructive input from a greater, more diverse number of stakeholders.”

What’s next

The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service will hold a community meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.. The panel will answer community questions about the future of the Community House men’s shelter and the Good Neighbor Plan.

Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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