Working out the IFC SUP

Tonight Town Council begins the IFC shelter special use permit process, which council members Sally Greene and Donna Bell promise will be rigorous and thorough.

One of the contentious issues that may come up is the fact that the siting of the shelter precludes housing any registered sex offenders, even on white flag nights. Some people have objected to taxpayer funding for a shelter that excludes a segment of the population who might need shelter at times. Others have protested that there is no sure-fire way to determine if someone is a sex offender. Some have proposed that people asking for shelter have a valid ID, which may not be feasible. Debate has railed about whether Chapel Hill should shoulder the burden of housing the homeless, when the county has just as much responsibility to provide a site.

IFC director Chris Moran has gone back and forth about whether the Rosemary Street shelter houses registered sex offenders. Common sense dictates the likelihood that a registered sex offender has stayed there on occasion. Moran has gone to great lengths to distinguish the services that the IFC offers on Rosemary Street from what it will offer at the proposed Homestead Road site. The Homestead Road site, Community House, will be a transitional housing facility, accepting only a certain number of men, who will abide by certain behavior rules, including working toward reintegrating into the un-homeless community.

Except on white flag nights, and then it will be an emergency shelter.

Moran has pledged that Community House will be a good neighbor and has come up with guidelines of how it will keep that promise. But no sanctions are in place if IFC doesn’t live up to those standards.

Working to transition homeless men back into the community is a laudable goal and much-needed service. To make it happen on Homestead Road, IFC should consider a compromise: Keep Community House as a transitional housing facility, and do not act as a shelter on white flag nights.

As long as IFC offers emergency shelter, the county has little incentive to spend its tax dollars in contributing to this much-needed service. My sense is that property owners close to the proposed Homestead Road site who object to a shelter in their neighborhood would not object to a transitional housing facility, any more than they have objected to the Women’s Shelter and Freedom House.

Too much animosity has built up between supporters and opponents of Community House for this issue to go gently into the night. Compromise will be required of both sides. IFC could make a giant move toward mending fences by agreeing not to use Community House as an emergency shelter. Find a different spot for homeless on white flag nights – the Rosemary Street building comes to mind – or pressure the county to do its part.
– Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Jon DeHart

     /  March 21, 2011

    I expect a full house tonight , I will be there early .

  2. Runner

     /  March 21, 2011

    Splitting out the Shelter from the Community House is what I’ve been saying for a long time.

    Since Chapel Hill will house the Community House, Freedom House, the Women’s Shelter and Carborro will most likely house the Meals program. Hillsborough should house the Emergency Shelter. Now that’s shared responsibility.

    However, this solution is unlikely because I beleive that the Town and UNC’s finacial support of the IFC is quietly tied to its handling of shelter services on behalf of the local governments.

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    From the IFC website (

    “For fiscal year 2010-11, the Town of Chapel Hill appropriated $10,000 for IFC programs and Carrboro budgeted $8,550. Orange County gives $36,000 for food programs. In addition, Chapel Hill donates the rent and utilities for the Old Municipal Building for Community House valued at $19,133 per month. HomeStart’s $1 a year lease from Orange County has been estimated at $80,000 annual fair market value. For its HomeStart and Community House programs, IFC receives Emergency Shelter Grants totaling $71,451 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the North Carolina Office of Economic Opportunity. State funds designated for case management services for HomeStart families amounting to $68,392 are allocated by the Orange County Partnership for Young Children (Smart Start). The combined monetary contributions from these government sources make up about 13% of the IFC operating budget.”

    Except for the in-kind contribution of the Rosemary St. facility, the Town of Chapel Hill is not financially contributing much to the IFC. UNC is not providing anything except the $1 per year lease on the Homestead Rd. land.

  4. Runner

     /  March 21, 2011


    It appears from your information that the IFC gets money (and free land) from a number of sources for providing emergency shelter sevices. I doubt they’ll want to give up that money.

  5. Nancy Oates

     /  March 21, 2011

    Good point, Runner. It looks like the IFC would lose its HUD grants if it didn’t take in folks on white flag nights. But in the scope of the cost of building this facility and the good it could do to transition homeless back into the homeful community, $71K is a small price to pay for the support of the neighbors. And as long as IFC had a place to provide shelter on an emergency basis, it sounds like IFC could keep the $71K, even if the shelter were not in the same spot as Community House.

  6. Mark Peters

     /  March 21, 2011

    White flag nights are an important part of this issue but there are many more concerns, for example:

    Neighbors around the proposed site never imagined the town would place third facility in the Homestead Park area since it’s already home to two out of three of the existing over night facilities.

    Any compromise must require that no other facilities be built in this area and no existing facilities expand. Freedom House has already undergone significant expansion in the last few years. A new ordinance would also need to include restrictions for pocket shelters and halfway homes to ensure no additional concentration of overnight facilities. The area must be declared “impacted” with appropriate legal limitations on all types of at-risk social service developments and changes. An apology for the backroom deal and assurances that UNC & the Town of Chapel Hill will not stoop to such a level again would be appropriate also, but we are not holding our breath. Would any town council present or sell this backroom shelter siting as a model for a future project with public land and $2.3M in public assistance (so far)? Of course not.

    Today the area around Homestead Park already houses 123 overnight beds for detox, halfway, and transitional/emergency shelter. The proposed new facility would add 52 transitional beds and without changing anything, the size of the facility could easily allow 70 emergency beds (according to the Chapel Hill News and Chris Moran’s statements in public meetings).

  7. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    All I see is the $71,000 from the HUD for shelter, and that can be easily replaced with funds for ending homelessness. Plus, if the churches pick up the shelter function, the HUD money would still be coming to the community. Although under the current legislature (state and fed) slash-and-burn attitude toward social services, no one can safely assume those funds will continue to be available, shelter services or not.

  8. Mark Peters

     /  March 21, 2011

    The NC HFA public records request and town public records show significantly more grants overall. I am not sure which ones would be eliminated if the white flag night component is removed, but this is what the grants say: “The IFC estimates that the Community House will be serving 500 to 600 homeless men each year.” If that number becomes 75 homeless men per year, are the grant terms breached?

  9. Mark Peters

     /  March 21, 2011

    Also, the conversation needs to separate operating grants from capital (construction and pre-construction) grants. My previous post was about capital grants. Both types may be at risk if white flag nights are pulled, which may explain the push to keep the 17 white flag night beds permanently in the approval. If it is the case that grants are predicated/provided on the basis of white flag night approval/operations, then that would greatly erode the argument and false framing of this as “exclusively a transitional facility”.

  10. Runner

     /  March 21, 2011

    I wish that someone on the Town Council tonight asks the IFC Representative this simple yes or no question…

    Can the IFC afford to build and operate the Community House at the proposed site without the Town’s approval for emergency sheltering capacity?

  11. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    Since the IFC paperwork says that the 17 cots will not be used if another entity steps up to serve those needs, I don’t imagine their funding is dependent on them. Nor can I imagine any funding agency providing capital funding based on the existence of temporary cots set up in a public space.

  12. Mark Peters

     /  March 21, 2011

    The later, ongoing operation funding may not depend on the 17 white flag night beds, but the construction money may very well depend on them.

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    That doesn’t make any sense. Why would construction depend on a space that is being used for other purposes? That would mean double funding the same square footage.

  14. Nancy Oates

     /  March 21, 2011

    I’d be surprised if churches could accept any funding from a government entity, even if it was performing a function that the government would pay another nonprofit to do. The church I belonged to in New York took in homeless for a winter while a local shelter was closed, I think for repairs. I don’t recall that we got any money from anyone; I seem to remember that the expense came out of our budget. The churches-as-shelter idea opens another set of issues, including where do the men wash up, the problem of head lice, especially if the church runs a preschool, the time and expense of laundering linens, training volunteers who staff the dorm overnight, security, etc.

  15. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    HUD does fund churches for providing services to the homeless:

  16. Fred Black

     /  March 21, 2011

    Mark, I disagree with you and what you characterize as “the backroom deal.” It’s also wrong for you to claim that the Town of Chapel Hill is a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of commerce; just not true.

  17. Mark Peters

     /  March 21, 2011

    Fred, search the chamber directory for the word “Council”

  18. Fred Black

     /  March 21, 2011

    You are assuming that being listed in a directory makes one a member. Call someone if you don’t want to believe a board member. HOT news, the Chapel Hill Fire Department IS a member!

  19. Lisa Ostrom

     /  March 21, 2011

    The following chamber web page says to be in the online directly you must be a member. It looks like the business directly and the online directly are the same thing. I agree a board member would know the membership but the website clearly links the online directly to membership.

    Here is an excerpt from the web page:

    “Search our membership by category or name, or view the complete list of more than 900 local business and organizations that are members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.”

    “Want to be included in our Business Directory? It’s as easy as becoming a Chamber member! Find out how. “

  20. Fred Black

     /  March 21, 2011

    Ms. Ostrom, fact remains, they are not a member.

  21. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    A good rule of thumb is to either verify the information you find on the internet with someone directly involved or another internet site that doesn’t just echo what you found on a single site.

  22. John Kramer

     /  March 21, 2011

    Yeah, I am sure the chamber’s own website is wrong and Fred is right. Yeah.

  23. Fred Black

     /  March 21, 2011

    My gosh, it’s the only out of date site on the entire web. Even the 2011 board is not posted. Heads should roll!

  24. Terri Buckner

     /  March 21, 2011

    Looks like you really aren’t on the Chamber Board, Fred. If you aren’t on the website, it has to be true.

  25. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    Were they a member and aren’t now? Ie – is this just an “out of date issue”

  26. John Kramer

     /  March 22, 2011

    Fred is claiming that the website of the organization that he is a board member of has inaccuracies on it’s website. Hardly something I would be proud of, but then…..

  27. Jon DeHart

     /  March 22, 2011

    @Fred, @LISA, @Mark.

    Y’all arguing a matter of semantics. Whether the Town is a dues paying member or not .

    I am positive that Aaron/The Chamber works as hard to promote the Town as it does any other dues paying member . Which is good for Chapel Hill and for the Chamber .

  28. Fred Black

     /  March 22, 2011

    No John, it’s more than semantics, as this membership issue was used to claim that there is an improper relationship at the heart of decision making on this issue. This is what was stated by Mark:

    “…the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is a
    private entity that lobbies and works on behalf of its business members.
    The Town of Chapel Hill is a member of the chamber. Membership by the
    town creates a conflict of interest and calls into question the
    neutrality that the town should have when looking at issues that concern
    citizens and private businesses. ”

    Best I can tell, for that least the last 10-12 years the Town has not been a member. So I say again, listing their phone number doesn’t make them a member and if it was a key point in the (erroneous) charge that was levied, someone should have checked their facts. And for the record, the Chamber is a 501(c)(6) membership organization.

  29. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    Is that my statement or the statement of the person who wrote the column?

  30. Fred Black

     /  March 22, 2011

    That was in your email to folks.

  31. Fred Black

     /  March 22, 2011

    Additionally Mark, later in your email you write:

    “Wow! We could not have said it any better. Advocates of may
    not receive impartial treatment because the town and developer are both
    members of the Chamber. ”

    I believe that you/ own the claim.

  32. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011


    Couple of points.

    The first is that you removed key context to the quote which goes as follows: “As Hutton points out, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is a
    private entity that lobbies and works on behalf of its business members.
    The Town of Chapel Hill is a member of the chamber. Membership by the
    town creates a conflict of interest and calls into question the
    neutrality that the town should have when looking at issues that concern
    citizens and private businesses. ”

    This was a paraphrase of the column that was cited in the email:

    Second, a group of neighbors contribute to the ABetterSite emails. I did not create that email, though I did participate as an editor.

    Now if we take a step back and look at this situation, then it is clear that the Chamber exerted much pressure on this situation, even soliciting opinions that were inappropriate given that a quasi-judicial hearing on the matter was coming up. Perhaps this is what has your hackles up, but the Chamber should not have done it.

    To see what I am talking about, go to and look at page 81 of the presentation that was given last night by neighbors. That slide contains the candidate surveys from 2007 and 2009. 2009 specifically asks if candidates agree that the shelter to vote for the shelter to “… move to its new location on Homestead Road”.

    At any rate, what may have led Hutton (the author of the original column) to this conclusion is faulty wording on the Chamber website which has been quoted in a prior post. Additionally, the Chapel Hill News does not hesitate to ask me if they have a question or want to confirm a source (though they usually don’t because I provide documents and links ahead of time) and it is likely that they were convinced that the town council appeared to be a member since it is the fundamental premise of the column.

  33. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    Need an edit function.

    The 2009 survey specifically asks if candidates agree to vote for the shelter to “… move to its new location on Homestead Road”.

  34. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    And I should point out that the ABetterSite neighbors relied upon the Chamber’s own website wording (“Search our membership by category or name, or view the complete list of more than 900 local business and organizations that are members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.”) and search results to verify membership of the Town Council before sending the email to our constituents.

    Multiple neighbors confirmed this wording before decision to send the email out was rendered.

    The Chamber’s website may be incorrect, as you assert, so the Chamber should correct it accordingly by removing any parties who are not members.

  35. As far as the Chamber’s 2009 question “Will you vote to set a final and firm lease expiration date or a deadline for the IFC Homeless Shelter to vacate the old municipal building downtown and move to its new location on Homestead Road?”, I answered yes to moving from the existing location, yes to a date-certain but didn’t agree that Homestead was necessarily the best location. Unfortunately the Chambers questionnaires over the last few cycles limit answers to YES/NO/UNSURE which owes more to a desire to shape a particular message than getting at the substance of a candidate’s position (see my post from 2005 on this problem ).