Town Hall addresses housing and homelessnessBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / September 1, 2023
According to the Guilford County Continuum of Care Homelessness Point in Time Count data collected in January 2023, there were 452 people experiencing some form of homelessness in the county.
The Black & Brown Women’s Voting Initiative held a town hall to address housing and homelessness at St. Matthews United Methodist Church on Monday. The meeting invited the community to come and voice their concerns about the state of housing and homelessness to Greensboro City Councilmembers and Guilford County Commissioners.
Mark Lile-King and Bob Powell of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church shared information about The Interfaith Affordable Housing Initiative, which is a group of local faith leaders and church congregations that advocate for affordable housing and assist families and children who are experiencing homelessness or in temporary housing.
“Affordable housing needs so much work. The actions we’re looking to do are to get the city’s housing department to try and identify the groups in Greensboro that are already doing the work, find where the gaps are and find out what other cities can we learn from,” said Powell.
Tara Tillman, owner of Westchester Realty, said that it is necessary to teach landlords how to accept housing vouchers and teach people how to take care of a rental space.
“Teach landlords so they want to provide housing. No one is going to allow less than the rent with a voucher to let someone [have] a place to live,” said Tillman, who added you can’t talk about housing without talking about jobs.
“We have to talk about job creation. People need to understand the basic needs to live,” said Tillman. “I am an advocate of home ownership. We [Black population] are last for home ownership.”
City and county leaders listed multiple programs and resources available for people to get help finding housing, education, employment and everyday necessities. There are emergency shelters available, temporary housing and safe parking for people living in their cars.
At-large Greensboro City Council member Hugh Holston agreed that job creation is an important factor in addressing homelessness.
“We all go home. We determine what the AC is set on. We’re dry. We have food in the fridge. This is something that these individuals [people experiencing homelessness] don’t have the luxury of receiving. The challenge is, we didn’t get here overnight. It’s going to be challenging to get out of this overnight. The houses are built and there’s a hundred lined up, but without the economic and job pieces it’s not going to work. If we’re getting economic development from Toyota and Sonic Boom that’s great. We need to get other groups around that. We need to get the transportation piece involved,” said Holston.
At-large Greensboro City Council member Marikay Abuzuaiter, who is also on the board of the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, said that the council and the transportation authority are working on getting Toyota to provide public transportation for its employees in all parts of the city.
When discussing solutions, Greensboro resident and local archivist, Lewis Brandon, said there needs to be more of a grassroots effort to reach people where they are.
“What we don’t need any more of, is churches feeding people in the park,” said Brandon. “Meet people where they are. Come set up GED classes at the park and set up mental health services at the park. People who have businesses and need workers should offer apprenticeships to people in need.”
The Black & Brown Women’s Voting Initiative will host another town hall later this year to address viable solutions to Guilford County’s affordable housing issues.