IFC won’t leave

Three lawyers sat on the dais at last night’s Town Council meeting, but the only person who showed any knowledge of negotiating skills came from a retired businessman. On several occasions, council member Matt Czajkowski knifed through the rhetoric to ask pointed questions. The answers came back in the form of telling silence or obfuscating word play from people unwilling to stand by their convictions.

Toward the end of a 5-hour council meeting, through which IFC was paying a lawyer who charges more than $300 an hour for her services, Czajkowski asked the IFC whether it would be willing to commit to moving out of the 100 West Rosemary St. building no more than a year after the new homeless shelter is built. The IFC would not agree to that provision, leaving its options open to run the new shelter and the current one simultaneously. Furthermore, the revised Resolution A increased the size of the new homeless shelter from about 16,000 square feet to nearly 21,000 square feet. Though planning director J.B. Culpepper said the new figure reflected the maximum size of what could be built on that plot and that the IFC didn’t have to build to the maximum, nevertheless, the SUP that ultimately was approved by a 6-2 vote granted approval for the IFC to build a shelter 5,000 square feet larger than originally proposed. Czajkowski and Laurin Easthom held out for a better plan; Gene Pease was absent due to personal reasons.

The IFC had relentlessly positioned the new shelter as being a transitional housing facility. But when Czajkowski proposed approving the SUP without the 17-bed emergency shelter component, the IFC’s lawyer threatened that the IFC would abandon the transitional housing part if the emergency beds weren’t approved at the same time.

By approving the resolution as an emergency shelter, the town lost all leverage to pressure nearby towns or the county to help out with housing the homeless.

Czajkowski again showed leadership when Rabbi Jen Feldman spoke up in favor of keeping the emergency shelter component. He asked her whether she thought the faith community would be willing to each house 17 homeless men for 4 to 5 nights a year. She said her synagogue couldn’t because it didn’t have a shower. Czajkowski pointed out that she would have 2 to 4 years to resolve that problem, but she wouldn’t commit to helping out.

Many people strode to the podium spouting moralistic snobbery about the need to help the downtrodden (including an embarrassing tirade by the NAACP’s Michelle Laws), but in the end, the only people who will make room in their lives to help the homeless will be the beleaguered residents near the new proposed shelter site.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Terri Buckner

     /  May 10, 2011

    Were we watching the same meeting?

  2. Terri Buckner

     /  May 10, 2011

    I was going to let this go, but I can’t. “The IFC would not agree to that provision, leaving its options open to run the new shelter and the current one simultaneously. ” As their lawyer said, the IFC is governed by a board. The board makes the decisions. So for Matt to ask the lawyer to make a promise was inappropriate. She did express the IFC’s desire to vacate the Rosemary St facility as soon as possible after the new facility is available for occupancy, and she stated that should the town decide IFC needed to be out tomorrow, they would have to do so. Anyone who has been inside the Rosemary St facility knows that it is falling down, and it makes no sense to even speculate on IFC’s desire to continue operating there (they have a month to month lease with the town).

    Congratulations to IFC and their legal team. I thought they did an excellent job of respectfully answering the questions and challenges posed at the previous public meetings. It’s been a very long and painful process, and they handled their part with grace and dignity.

  3. Steve

     /  May 10, 2011


    We should not be paying Religious Organizations to do this. Especially, if these organizations care nothing about the people who live in the community and their leaders live in Chatham as I recall.

    People like you are blind to the true cost. Before you go calling me names. I support a Transitional Shelter, but the Emergency component will lead to the FAILURE of the Transitional Piece. Recovering Addicts need space from their old friends to get the perspective to succeed.

    To pretend that the Homeless who end up in Shelters are just men down on their luck and not those lacking the coping skills to deal with daily life, on drugs or without other significant problems is to deny the problem. Homelessness is not a Social Issue. It is a mental health issue.

    The IFC is no more qualified to handle this issue than the State of NC has proven to be. Until, we, as a country realize that being mentally ill in one way or another is more than just something joked about and prescribed, we will never get anywhere.

    The IFC wanted to build its ailing leader a building. But I have yet to see anything that indicates they have a clue what they are doing. They didn’t have an AA Meeting until THIS YEAR. I think the mentally-ill have been self-medicating with alcohol since its creation.

    Bottom line, Terri, is that you think the lack of willingness to compromise shows courage. It does not. It shows ignorance. The same ignorance and lack of understanding of addiction that has lead to a debate over a building instead of a debate over why Orange County, The State of NC and even the Country continues to treat the mentally-ill as a Social Problem instead of a Mental Health problem.

    Congratulations on building another warehouse. Prove to me, as a taxpayer, that the IFC knows what its doing.

  4. Jon DeHart

     /  May 10, 2011

    I watched the same meeting as Nancy .

  5. Runner

     /  May 10, 2011

    This vote was sealed on election day. As someone said, elections have consequences.

  6. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    The Community Kitchen will end up at 100 Rosemary (write it down!); and the good neighbor plan
    will not define what offsite means and the Council won’t make them, even though I thought I heard Mr. Mayor say he wants it in the GNP and told the IFC to please incorporate their comments into it.

  7. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    the only part of the good neighbor plan that will matter is how “offsite” is defined and what
    sites if any are excluded (e.g. Parks etc…). This is a typical interaction of the regulator (council) and regulatee (IFC); the regulatees never want any restrictions whether it’s a large company on wall street or IFC.
    The specificity of defining offsite will determine whether or not homeless gather/camp out in homestead park in the future.

  8. George C

     /  May 10, 2011

    Leverage against the County -right! We want leverage to force the County to take on a social responsibility which, by most reasonable accounts, they should be doing (i.e., housing the homeless) while at the same time (did you listen to the budget presentation?) we’re hoping that the County won’t change the way they distribute sales taxes resulting in a loss (to Chapel Hill) and a gain (to the County) of > $2 million. Yeah, I can see that we have a lot of leverage here.

  9. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    George C. — this is the library all over again;
    someone will look back on this and wonder how chapel hill ended up with a walk in shelter next to a park and the community kitchen at 100 Rosemary and ask why carrboro and county didn’t lift a finger.. Cause they weren’t forced too. IF all the clergy put their sights on the County there’s a chance something could happen, but the clergy went after the easiest path of resistance instead.

  10. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    George C. –
    Carrboro would be crushed by any county redistribution; Chapel Hill would be fine;
    Also the City Schools would have to GET MONEY BACK if there was a change in Tax distribution that would offset loss to the county for any chapel hill town resident.

  11. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    City Schools Gain $2.4 million dollars if the county changes tax distribution – bring it on!

  12. George C

     /  May 10, 2011

    Walker, I’m missing something here. How would the schools getting $2.4 million more obviate the loss of services in the Town that would result from a decrease in revenues of >$2 million? Are you suggesting that the School District would willingly reduce their tax rate to account for this windfall which would then allow the Town to raise theirs by a corresponding amount, thus resulting no net change?

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  May 10, 2011


    I agree with you. Having the emergency cots in the new facility is not a great idea. The problem is there is no alternative. The choice was to pull those cots from the proposal and ‘trust, h0pe, pray’ that someone would come forward and accept the responsibility before Community House was completed OR prepare for the worse and include those beds in the SUP. IFC chose the later, but that doesn’t mean they must use those beds if the service is made available from another group.

    We can all help Community House and/or the neighbors in the Homestead Rd vicinity by putting pressure on Orange County to step up, but in the face of tight budgets, like George, I think that is pie-in-the-sky. But we should still try. When the SUP for the kitchen and expanded administrative offices/distribution center goes to the Carrboro BOA, we can all help by attending the meetings and speaking up for approval. Homelessness is not a Chapel Hill problem. It is a community problem and if Matt is reading, in this instance I define community as all of Orange County.

  14. Walker

     /  May 10, 2011

    George C. –
    the County Managers report shows the gain/loss per tax district and shows the County would either have to give the City Schools 2.4 million dollars more or MORE LIKELY reduce the district Tax substantially which is likely what the County would do. The county sets the school tax rate, not the school board