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Fayetteville seeks county’s support to expand Day Resource Center services


Three-fourths of the way through its first year in operation, Fayetteville’s Day Resource Center has faced some operational challenges, but city leaders and community partners are engaged in ongoing efforts to expand available services at the DRC. 

Homeless community advocates have been saying for months that crucial support services — such as connecting unhoused people with shelter, employment, child and medical care — are absent from the DRC, despite the city previously advertising that support services from nonprofit partners would be available at the center. Advocates and unhoused individuals have also voiced concern about the limited hours of the DRC, which closes at 5 p.m. and is not open weekends. 

The DRC’s current operator, Cumberland HealthNET, will not renew its contract with the city when it expires on June 30. 

In a presentation to the Fayetteville City Council on March 4, Shelley Hudson, executive director of Cumberland HealthNET, acknowledged that a number of challenges have arisen during the organization’s operational period. Among them: unexpected high traffic at the center, building maintenance problems and the unexpected financial cost of operations and staffing. On March 6, Fayetteville put out a request for a proposal to find a new DRC operator.  

Day Resource Center service ‘gaps’

At a meeting of Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s City-County Liaison Committee Tuesday, Fayetteville’s elected officials and senior staff members acknowledged these “gaps” in service and said they are looking for ways to address them — but need help from the county to do so. 

“We are aware of the gaps,” said Kelly Olivera, an assistant city manager for Fayetteville. 

“And the evening and weekend hours are something that we hope to close a gap on or put a dent in with our new operating partner. But for the last year, we've experienced significant gaps in really four major areas that the county really could have helped provide some assistance with.” 

The four areas include services that could be provided by: 

  • Cumberland County’s Department of Health and Human Services 
  • Cumberland County’s Department of Health 
  • Veteran services
  • Cumberland County CommuniCare (a local non-profit that provides mental health, substance abuse and case management services to at-risk youth)

“This first year we saw where the gaps were,” Mayor Mitch Colvin said, addressing County Commissioners Glenn Adams and Toni Stewart at Tuesday’s meeting. “We provided a lot, but there's a lot of need for our constituents that we both have.”    

Colvin also proposed the county and city work together to develop a comprehensive plan to address homelessness in Fayetteville and the surrounding area. 

“We can't wait until the brick and mortar dries to start planning,” Colvin said. “That's the problem — we're already behind. So I'm hoping that we can say in the next three to five years: this is what these support services in Cumberland County and Fayetteville will look like.”

Adams asked for more details about the gaps being discussed. 

“There's supposed to be gaps,” Adams said. “I don't know that we've ever gotten where you all said the actual gaps were for us to be able to fill in, if we can fill in.”

At Adams’ suggestion of a written report, members of the city-county committee agreed to have the city compile a report detailing the gaps in service at the DRC. The report would include any requests the city has for the county to address missing service areas. Adams said this would be a good starting point for boards to come back to for a future discussion. 

Homeless adoption program

Meanwhile, Council Member Brenda McNair is spearheading an initiative to help connect people experiencing homelessness and mental illness to services offered by dozens of local churches. 

McNair’s “homeless adoption program,” as she calls it, would involve bringing together various churches and nonprofits that already help provide clothing, food and shelter to people experiencing homelessness. It would streamline their resources and align them with the up-to-date needs of the homeless community.

 With these collective resources, the program would also sponsor “adoptions,” where church members or anyone in the community could provide a temporary place for an unhoused person to stay while they get back on their feet, such as an existing AirBnB or rental property.

“Most churches don't know what the majority of people are doing in the community,” McNair said. “They just know the scripture that says, ‘Feed the hungry and clothe the naked.’ But they don't talk about putting them in a house, or those [who] are about to be homeless, they don't reach out as much as they should. And then a lot of times, the churches, too, they feel that we can't afford to just continue to give them a hotel space every month or something of that nature.”

McNair said she hopes the DRC will be “a hub” for the homeless adoption program. She is hopeful the next organization to step in as the new operator will help make the DRC a place where positive change happens. 

“Whoever's going to partner with the Day Resource Center, I pray that it makes a difference,” McNair said. “We have a lot at stake. We have a lot in front of us that we have to do at this point when it comes to the Day Resource Center.”

McNair said her team was in the process of putting together a database of the local unhoused population’s needs, and they will be giving several presentations at government meetings in the coming months. The councilwoman agreed that the city and county “need to work together” for the success of her initiative and others like it. 

“I have touched bases with our county, and we're working with them now,” McNair said. “I'm very optimistic that they will step up and help us out.”   

The Fayetteville City Council’s Homeless and Mental Health Committee will meet at 9 a.m. May 1 at Fayetteville City Hall.

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

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Day Resource Center, homelessness, DRC