Fortunately, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this past weekend provided excellent training for the hours of sitting on the couch in front of the TV that watching Monday night’s Town Council meeting required. The public hearing began for whether to approve a special use permit for the IFC shelter. And for all IFC director Chris Moran’s pains to refer to “Community House,” Phil Mason, in presenting the application for the town, repeatedly referred to the proposal and labeled his slides as “the IFC shelter.”

The petitioner’s team went first. Note to IFC: Be selective about who you give the mike to when you are paying a lawyer easily $300 an hour to be present as a highly charged issue is being aired. Instruct all participants in the advisability of an economy of words to avoid, say, the architect from imparting such words of wisdom as “the windows are scaled to human height and size and admit light,” and a real estate appraiser, who read her resume to the council before specifying that MLK Jr. Boulevard is a highway and clarifying that residential property is “not close, that is, far away.”

The proposed facility is attractive and well-landscaped and has green features. And of the more than 45 people signed up to speak, no one disputed the need to help break the cycle of homelessness.

The rub seemed to be the 17 cots for white flag nights and other instances as needed. The IFC expects to serve 500 to 600 people annually with the new facility. Either the program will transition the homeless back into the community at an astoundingly brisk pace or there will be more emergency guests at the shelter than the 17 cots belie. As a former shelter resident revealed, when the need arises, men sleep shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor.

Bless their hearts, the council listened. Due to the lateness of the hour, Jim Ward said he would e-mail the bulk of his comments, and they’ll be available from the town clerk later this week. He supported the idea of making the Good Neighbor Policy part of the SUP and working proactively with the police to avoid surprises. He also wanted to make sure that a plan was in place to preserve the cross-property agreement between IFC and United Church of Christ if the relationship between the two ever soured.

Ed Harrison also urged strengthening the Good Neighbor Policy and having an advisory group weigh in regularly. Matt Czajkowski challenged the developers to find alternatives to the emergency shelter beds and, as shelter site opponents could not come up with $450 to pay half the fee to hire the Dispute Resolution Center to mediate with IFC, suggested the town pony up financial assistance for such counsel, peanuts compared to the $25,000 council had approved for a consultant to help with a Neighborhood Conservation District process. Donna Bell stressed the need for clarity of specific behaviors that would be tolerated at the shelter and transparency in how many emergency guests the IFC honestly expected to serve. Mark Kleinschmidt suggested a mechanism be put in place that allowed for changing the specifics of the Good Neighbor Policy as the town grows.

The meeting adjourned at 11:20 p.m. Kleinschmidt announced at the start of the meeting that Gene Pease and Penny Rich were away on business and town manager Roger Stancil was away on a personal matter.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. George C

     /  March 22, 2011

    It was Phil Mason, not Phil Post, who presented the project for the Town staff.

  2. Jon DeHart

     /  March 22, 2011

    Long night… I was there from 6:30 until 11:30 or so .

    I Was happy to see civil discourse among all present . Thanks to everyone for being good neighbors and being respectful .

    Quick fact check. I heard Chris Moran say that over 20 % of Orange was below the poverty line. That sounded really high to me . So, I checked the Official US census website. It says Orange County’s rate is 13.9 and the rate for NC is 14.6 .

    Link : http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37/37135.html

    I would also like to see data from the Orange County Sheriff’s department listing the addresses current and previous for the last several years for our regsitered sex offenders .

  3. Nancy Oates

     /  March 22, 2011

    Oops, you’re right, George C. Blame it on the lateness of the hour. I’ll go back in and correct it.

  4. George C

     /  March 22, 2011

    The figures you gave the link to are from 2008. Given the worsening of the economy since 2008 it is possible that the figure is closer to 20% now. I’ve heard Chris on other occasions use a figure of 18% and I don’t recall whether he said over or under 20% in his presentation last evening. In any case I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer to 20% than 15%.

  5. Runner

     /  March 22, 2011

    So, the IFC has held countless meetings with local churches to rally support for its new shelter, but none of these churches have stepped up to offer to handle one single person during white flag nights?

    I’m not putting the burnden completely on our churches, but if just 5 churches in Orange County offered to provide 4 emergency cots each during white flag nights, then our community would actually increase its projected emergency homeless supporting capabilities by almost 20%.

    The new Community House won’t be built in a week, month or even a year. The various leaders of our community have more than enough time to create an alternative capacity for white flag night support within Orange County.

  6. Runner

     /  March 22, 2011

    I wish there was an edit button here. I meant to say that if 5 organizations, not churches. Oh, and I would have corrected my spelling of the word burden.

  7. John Kramer

     /  March 22, 2011

    Orange county is handling this just like they did the landfill. How shocking.

  8. Jon DeHart

     /  March 22, 2011

    Either way it is a lot … I agree we need to help folks in these difficult times .

    Problem is , one has to know where one is, to know where one is going . We have to start from good data to make our plan .

    Would be glad to sit down with you or Chris and review . My guess is the current number is around 15-16 % . With our population being around 130 k for Orange County . A data error of 4-5 % means 5,200-7,800 people . With an average household size of of 2.3 . That is 2300-3,200 households . That is a big difference .

    Using Chris’s data, that means we have 10,000 households in Orange County at or below the poverty level . Seems high to me .

    I am in 100 % agreement that we need a good plan to help those in need . To have that good plan , we must start with good data .

    Signing off from blogging, back to work for the day …

  9. Terri Buckner

     /  March 22, 2011

    The Chapel Hill News reported the Orange County poverty rate at 18% based on 2010 data. The most recent figure I could find was 16%. Considering that the homeless are rarely captured in census data, it’s a fairly staggering figure either way.

  10. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    Same article: “The Orange County numbers may be skewed by college students, said Nancy Coston, the director of the Orange County Department of Social Services.”


  11. Mark Peters

     /  March 22, 2011

    We would love for Aaron Nelson to come back and talk longer next time. He does a wonderful job articulating why the shelter is being moved out of downtown and I don’t think he even realizes it.

  12. Fred Black

     /  March 22, 2011

    I hope Mark that you are able to distance your cause from the uninformed “noise.”

  13. John Kramer

     /  March 22, 2011

    Thanks, Fred for proving my point.

  14. Runner

     /  March 22, 2011

    Mr. Kramer,

    I merely request that you present your arguments without resorting to labeling others with symplistic generalizations.

  15. John Kramer

     /  March 23, 2011

    Well, okay then. I think it is a bad idea to do what the IFC is proposing, generalize that!