Just the facts, please

At tonight’s Town Council meeting, members of ABetterSite.org will present petitions to council about the site selection process for the IFC’s new shelter. ABetterSite.org members also will address the Planning Board meeting to be held Election Day at 7 p.m. when the shelter subcommittee will present a brief report on shelter standards. Mark Peters, a member of ABetterSite.org, sent us this message from the organization:

“Last Thursday the IFC and its supporters gathered for their annual potluck dinner. A Herald Sun reporter attended this event and wrote “IFC on a mission for new shelter” [http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/10026338/article-IFC-on-a-mission-for-new-shelter?instance=main_article]. During the meeting an IFC project manager said the following:

‘Our detractors would like these men to leave our town as defeated men with their heads held down. They would like them to leave as sickly men, as broken men, as hungry men, as men who possess very little and having even less to lose.’

IFC’s past social media campaign to paint us as ignorant and fearful was wrong, but this degree of disparagement against neighbors who have legitimate concerns is a new low for the IFC. Do the faith-based organizations who support IFC believe that the end justifies such misrepresentation? Are these baseless statements consistent with its supporting congregations’ theology?

In the past year we have followed this relocation, studied the facts, and talked with many neighbors and park users however, we have never heard anyone oppose IFC’s mission to support homeless men. In fact, many of the neighbors who have concerns about the site have supported IFC through volunteering and donations.

From day one we’ve said that we oppose the location not IFC’s mission. We’ve said our neighborhood is already home to 123 detox, emergency and halfway beds. We’ve said there was no public process for site selection, no fair share considerations, and we’ve said that a location that can’t serve all men needs a better site. We’ve questioned the wisdom of placing a wet shelter – a shelter that accepts drunk and high men – near three children’s schools.

On one side of this, we have town officials and developers investing hundreds of millions of dollars in downtown development and want the shelter moved.

On the other side, we have IFC attempting to put words in the mouths of citizens who have legitimate concerns, words that these citizens have not said.

On numerous occasions IFC has said they will build relationships with neighbors and trust with citizens who are concerned about the new facility. This name-calling will in no way achieve that measure.

We [ABetterSite.org] call on IFC to stop the slander. We call on IFC’s clergy and supporters to demand that IFC stop the name-calling and focus on the facts and issues.”

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  1. Terri Buckner

     /  October 27, 2010

    Please tell me that painting the neighbors involved in “a better site” as victims of the IFC misuse of social media is a joke. This is the group who continue to label the proposed shelter as a “wet shelter” despite the fact that time after time after time, they’ve been told that emergency cots will be provided only until some other group steps up and accepts responsibility for those who chose not to participate in the rehabilitation program. These neighbors have attended public sessions with IFC and not listened to a single word. They came with their minds made up, and tainted those discussions and the larger public discussion with their distortions of the plans. And among these distortions they always claim to support the IFC mission.

    As for the call for a public siting process, the IFC is not a government agency. It is not the council’s purview to require a public siting process. No other social service agency is required to go through such a process. Besides which, we all know it would be a waste of time. The IFC conducted a series of public meetings meetings with neighbors this past spring. Every indication from those meetings is that a public siting process, should it have been held, would have encountered the same response, “yes we support you but you won’t build in our neighborhood.” So it’s a bogus call; a diversionary tactic; a misuse of the town council.

  2. Steve brown

     /  October 27, 2010

    Nice attack. Why don’t you offer your home for the shelter? It’s no big deal, right?

  3. Mark Peters

     /  October 27, 2010


    You want to build a fence. Your neighborhood association must approve the fence. Your next door neighbor has expressed an issue with location and the height of the fence.


    A) (“The end justifies the means”) To assure approval, you disparage your next door neighbor to all of your other neighbors by saying that your next door neighbor hates you and your family and that is why your neighbor opposes the fence.

    B) When the other neighbors ask you about the fence, you tell them what they want to hear and leave out the issue your neighbor raised.

    C) You tell your other neighbors that you have a disagreement about the fence and you share your side of the situation and reasonably portray your neighbors concerns.


    The issue here is that IFC has unfettered access to (and has probably visited) every congregation. If IFC has chosen to disparage neighbors in these meetings rather than discussing the issues, like is being reported about their annual meeting, then their actions are not consistent with the theology of most if not all of these congregations. Have the clergy of these congregations chosen to stand idly by while IFC disparages neighbors because they believe that the end justifies the means?

    I and my family have volunteered and donated to IFC, Durham Rescue Mission, Habitat, and many other organizations. Many other members of abettersite have also volunteered and donated.

    But the fact is that it shouldn’t matter whether we volunteered or donated. Regardless, we should be able to express our concerns with the site without IFC choosing to attack us personally with slander rather than discussing the issues, as was clearly the case at the annual meeting.

  4. I was at the IFC event and recall the comment Greg Childress relates in his article. I was taking notes -trying to capture the salient points – so I was listening fairly closely. Greg, though, was sitting closer than I was to the speakers, has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and reportage.

    What Greg relates is definitely negative and inexcusable – the problem I have is what I heard was slightly different than his recounting.

    Specifically, I don’t remember the bit about the “detractors” wanting defeated men.

    Instead, I thought Whisnant was making a more general comment that the community doesn’t want these men to leave our community – defeated in life – because we didn’t take the steps necessary to positively shift the course of their lives. Again, Greg is a pro, I could have missed the “detractors” preamble in the hubbub but, from where I was sitting, from what I heard, the comment was a more general statement on our community obligation than an attack on the concerned neighbors of this project.

    As Mark knows, I’ve been following this issue since day one and have raised my own issues with the project. At this point, I do think that the transition program can be safely and effectively housed on MLK, Jr.

    I don’t think the emergency shelter should be there and would like Orange County – which has a statutory responsibility – Carrboro and Chapel Hill – both of which share a community obligation – to work to take up the challenge of shifting that burden off of the IFC (as, Terri notes, they want).

    If the local governments continue to resist finding an existing public site for the emergency shelter, there exists within the IFC’s planned expansions a possible solution. The floor plan for FoodFirst, the new pantry/kitchen operation in Carrboro, incorporates a meeting space on the third floor that will accommodate 100 folks. I understand IFC’s arguments against combining the emergency shelter and food service components but this dual-use model has been effective elsewhere. I expect a bit of an uproar from Carrboro if the emergency shelter is sited there but given the location – its current zone, access to transit and job opportunities, nearby services – I think this could be a good fit.

    I hope IFC seriously considers that option.

    As far as supporting the mission of the IFC, two reminders of what folks can do to help out.

    Nov. 4th Project Homeless Connect is being held again at the Hargraves Center. We could use some more volunteers – further information here: http://www.ncceh.org/en/cev/294/

    Nov. 9th is RSVVP – where restaurants donate %10 of their day’s proceeds to IFC. A list of participating vendors is here: http://ifcweb.org/rsvvp2010.html

    Finally, as Mark has commented on more than once, it is important that the issues be addressed in a forthright and open manner sans vitriol.

    The next step in the process comes 7pm Nov. 2nd when the Planning Board shelter sub-committee presents to the Planning Board their recommendations. Unfortunately, at least as of today, the public doesn’t have access to a draft of the report. While it could be argued that the report won’t significantly alter the course of the IFC project, it certainly will provide context. Not releasing the draft prior to Nov. 2nd certainly doesn’t bode well for a process that is touted to be community-oriented. If it doesn’t pop up soon, I think I will request a copy of the work product under North Carolina’s open records laws. Hopefully it won’t come to that…

  5. Mark Peters

     /  October 27, 2010

    Regarding Terri’s comments…

    It is a fact that this location will be a wet shelter 200 nights per year and abettersite has been factual about the parameters of this. It is also a fact that there are no current plans for that to change – no building programmed to be built in the 10 year plan to end homelessness and no building programmed to be built in the affordable housing plan. Terri contends that it is not a wet shelter because at some unplanned point in the future, it may longer be a wet shelter. Terri’s comments on this point contradict themselves.

    IFC held 3 “community discussions” where IFC sent letters to the residents in the area and asked them to “SHARE your thoughts about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. location”. The neighbors came with questions. IFC refused to answer those questions, but instead broke the group out into small groups of 4 or 5 so that each small group could flounder around on its own without having any questions answered. The neighbors shared their thoughts like they were asked to. Clearly, the intent of this meeting was to harvest the neighbor concerns and to create and practice their whitewash of these concerns. There are no grounds for Terri’s objection here.

    IFC is not a government agency, but this project currently stands to receive over $1M in public funding and this number will increase over time. A private developer acquires and pays for its own land and pays for its own project. As soon as public money is infused (particularly this large amount) or the town offers its own land or is lessor of land, then the developer is no longer “private”.

    Documents finally disclosed by the town manager this summer (which we asked for last fall but didn’t get) show that in the fall of 2007, the town took over the site search, made it closed and private, and abandoned Orange County and Carrboro in the process. The documents show that the town looked almost exclusively at town land and it used criteria that assured it would not be placed downtown. These criteria were not publicly vetted. Had there been a true public site early on with clearly stated criteria and a number of candidate sites, then IFC would probably be sitting in a new location right now. Had there been a public site search, then the current proposed site never would have even made the final cut because it cannot serve sex offenders and because a wet shelter is not appropriate beside 2 preschools with 200 preschoolers (as well as many other reasons).

    Interestingly, an item of tonight’s town council agenda is to revisit the code of ethics. Here is some text: “Governmental decisions and policy must be made and implemented through proper channels and processes of the governmental structure.” and “Council members should make clear that an environment of transparency and candor is to be maintained in the governmental unit.”

    This backroom deal goes against many sections of the ethics agenda items. The deal was done behind the scenes by Kevin Foy and followed no proper channels. It never appeared on any town council meeting materials until over a year after the May 5th, 2008 announcement. It went to the NC Council of State where the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the top 10 state officials approved it, and yet this never appeared on any town council meeting materials. There is no disputing that this was a backroom deal.

    Terri’s comment “It is not the council’s purview to require a public siting process.” is false. The town is lessor of the land and has the authority to require such a process. Here is what the town staff and attorney said about this issue in the June 21 town council materials:

    “Should the Town be a party to the application or in the chain of title to the property as lessee from the University as proposed in the case of the property under consideration, we believe that the Town could potentially influence the process procedurally or substantively. The Council could choose to condition its assumed roles as lessor or provider of grant funding on the applicant agreeing to certain terms. For example, the Town could make a condition of its further funding or participation as a lessor, that is, party to the development, a requirement that the Shelter developer agree to a public process above and beyond the process required for a Special Use Permit.”

  6. Jon DeHart

     /  October 27, 2010

    Well said .

  7. Terri Buckner

     /  October 27, 2010

    The original post here was not about the siting process; it was a claim that these neighbors have been falsely maligned by the IFC. I was not at the annual dinner so I cannot speak to what the single individual said or the accuracy of the news report.

    But we still have an opportunity to step back and rethink how we proceed from here. Let’s begin by framing the problem accurately. First, this is not an IFC problem. Finding a way to provide services to the indigent among us is a community problem. In terms of the proposed Community House, I propose that we work from this problem definition: “We have one agency that wants to help men integrate back into the community. In providing that service, it creates a gap in services that the COMMUNITY needs to fill. How do we support the IFC in meeting their goals, and how do we provide services to fill the gap created by this change in the IFC mission?” Framed in this way, we can move to a two-prong solution: helping those who want help (IFC program) and finding a temporary housing solution for those who are not yet ready to change (to be determined).

    The reasons for moving ahead with building the Community House on MLK are well documented. Turning it into a public process now is a waste of everyone’s time. But I will agree with the Better Site that if the county and the towns step up and assume their responsibility for siting an emergency facility, it should be done publicly with lots of sunshine.

  8. Steve

     /  October 27, 2010


    Only someone with no understanding of addiction would claim that having non-recovering, non-repentant alcoholics and drug addicts sleeping on the floor is a recovery center. Bottom line: It’s not a recovery facility, it is a shelter. Does Freedom House allow drunks and drug addicts to sleep on the floor 200 nights a year? No.

    This is self-serving argument. This was a back-room deal that needs to be discussed. Rushing the process serves no one. Besides when the misbehaving folks are kicked out after the busses stop running, they will have a nice place to sleep in Homestead Park far away from half-empty condos downtown.

    Homelessness is a mental health issue resulting largely from de-institutionalization. To claim that a shoe-string organization of well-intentioned people can solve the Homelessness crisis is a little simplistic.

    You say it’s not worth having the debate. I am still waiting for an honest debate to start.

  9. Steve

     /  October 27, 2010

    As for maligning, yes we have. I doubt many people even know that the Seymour Center, Women’s Shelter, two Churches, a Major Park, A Swimming Pool, Skate Park, Batting Cages, Pizza Restaurant and 1000s of University Students are all an easy walk. Thanks to the lack of sidewalks on Homestead, Seawell Elementary, Smith Middle School and Chapel Hill High School are not, but the kids gymnasium near the railroad tracks is close enough.

    Saying that these concerns are less valid than those of developers and condos for rich people is kind of mean. All of these families mean less than condos that haven’t been built?

  10. Terri Buckner

     /  October 27, 2010

    And there, Steve, is why the discussion has gone the way it has. You folks continue to conflate the recovery and rehabilitation plan for the new facility with the current one-size-fits-all shelter. So instead of us all working together to pressure elected officials into finding shelter for those men who don’t want the rehab services (those 20 cots that seem to be the crux of the problem), the community runs the risk of having those rehab services denied to everyone due to the lack of a facility. Is that what you want?

  11. Steve brown

     /  October 27, 2010

    Steve don’t you love how Terri calls you “you folks”? That is the classic approach of an orange county so called progressive liberal. My bet is that if this were anywhere near her home she would be crowing the loudest of anyone. Talk is cheap to a liberal who can pontificate without worrying about the true issue.

  12. Jon DeHart

     /  October 29, 2010

    On a blog by Don , looks like Cam Hill used the You Folks … I see the IFC Shelter siting process and the VOE/PAC discussions as very similar . Lack of transparency and lots of finger pointing .

    Cam says:
    October 29, 2010 at 8:09 am
    This blog should be called: “The blog to keep irrelevancy alive”.
    VOE has nothing to do with outside PAC advertising. If you completely abolished the program PACs would still be allowed to do what they are allowed to do.
    “You folks” should debate the merits of VOE based on what the law does and doesn’t do and stop acting like whiny victims.
    Mark has no reason to apologize, “you folks” should stop suggesting he should.
    Jim Ward condemned “PAC contributions”? Huh? Does he mean no one should contribute to PACs? or PACs shouldn’t contribute to campaigns (which is prohibited by VOE)? or is this just bad, unclear (all to common for this blog) writing

  13. Steve brown

     /  October 29, 2010

    One should expect no less from someone like Mr Hill. Certainly you are not surprised.

    Yes, good point about transparency-something the liberals like to crow about but never seem to deliver on.