A 10-year plan for Beaufort County homeless

Published 2:37 pm Friday, September 22, 2017

To the Editor:
Responding to the needs homelessness should be a paramount concern for the growth, development and well-being of our community. It is logistically possible to develop and implement a plan to eliminate homelessness in Beaufort County, as many larger cities in our state have in fact committed to do. The thought of eliminating homelessness might seem radical, unrealistic and perhaps even impossible. However, since 2000, several communities have committed to do just that, and developed 10-year plans to end homelessness, working in alliance with HUD and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness per information provided by the North Carolina Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs.

Citizens would be wise to adopt the position that band-aid measures are not enough when addressing the problem of homelessness in Beaufort County. While our community is very fortunate to have people who are very dedicated to responding to the needs of the homeless population in Washington, Chocowinity and the surrounding area, more is needed if we are to implement a plan that will go so far as to end homelessness. We are so grateful for services such as those offered by the Zion Shelter, in Washington, and other ministries in our area that have impeccable service records of doing so much to meet the needs of so many. However, to achieve the goal of ending homeless in our area, more interagency/community collaborative work is needed, which focuses on identifying the needs of our homeless population, and the development of our own 10-year plan to end homelessness.

A major point key which is relevant to this issue is the fact that a Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness for our state is in place, yet falls very short of addressing the needs of smaller rural areas, like our home of Beaufort County. The original draft of this plan was released February 2005 by ICCHP. Larger cities, such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Fayetteville and neighboring Greenville were included in the plan, but Beaufort County fell in the gap. The question is, should we be content with staying in the gap when it comes to helping the homeless?

Evidence of the problem of homelessness in Beaufort County is not too hard to find, which is a truth we share with so many areas in the world. The study of homelessness tells us that since the 14th century in England, and throughout the history of the United States, government, churches and nonprofit organizations have sought to address the needs of the homeless, but have been unable to really find solutions that eliminate the problem (Levinson, 2007). Likewise, when examining the homeless population in our area, we would find that we do have a shelter, soup kitchen, career center and programs that are staffed by caring and compassionate volunteers and employees, yet homelessness continues to persist.

I have personally worked with homeless people in our community throughout the 16 years I have lived and worked in Beaufort County. Having worked as a counselor, mental health case manager and probation and parole officer, I have worked very closely with people who, for one reason or another, found themselves in such dire situations as being without a home and resources. As a counseling Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, I have had the opportunity to study homelessness in Raleigh, and explore similarities and differences in needs and services our community shares with the capital city. While we can learn from larger cities and other areas, it is important to be aware of our strengths, and develop a plan which will effectively work for Beaufort County. Advocacy is the place to start, followed by combined collaborative efforts, which unite agencies, churches, volunteers and concerned members of the community, for developing a 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness in Beaufort County.

Jason Perry