Cumberland County’s first-ever county homeless shelter is one step closer to construction, with the final permitting requirements expected to be voted on by the Fayetteville City Council on Nov. 27.
A positive sign for supporters of the shelter came Tuesday, when Fayetteville’s Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the county’s request to rezone the properties that comprise the selected site of the proposed shelter.
The shelter will be constructed in four adjoining properties off of Grove Street between B Street and Hawley Lane, adjacent to the former Pauline Jones Elementary School. It will provide temporary overnight shelter for unhoused people, as well as access to support programs and resources.
Cumberland County officials have said the shelter — referred to as the “homeless support center” — will have around-the-clock operational hours and staffing. The project overview describes the shelter as a “transitional housing” facility that will provide homeless guests “with services and assistance to help them to transition back to a stable quality of life.”
There are a limited number of homeless shelters in the area, especially for women, so the county shelter is expected to substantially increase available shelter space. Tony Stewart, chairwoman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, said the shelter will have a positive impact on the homeless community in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
“Our community has been challenged by the lack of beds for our unhoused residents,” Stewart said. “This homeless support center will not only help meet the need for beds but will provide this segment of our community with an opportunity to change their entire living environment.”
County commissioners said the county also intends to partner with Fayetteville Technical Community College to provide educational opportunities for residents who utilize the homeless support center. The county also plans to collaborate with Cape Fear Valley Health System on the project and other community partners to bring resources to those using the facility.
Two of the four properties were privately owned. The other two were owned by the Cumberland County Board of Education. The county has acquired the two private properties and the board of education voted on Sept. 12 to convey its parcels to the county.
While the shelter is a county facility, it will be located in downtown Fayetteville. Some Fayetteville residents are supportive of the shelter's location, while others have raised concerns.
In a public comment at the Fayetteville City Council meeting on Monday, Pamela Carter, a resident of B Street, expressed frustration that the shelter was being built in the “struggling neighborhood.” She also claimed residents and business owners in the surrounding area had not been consulted about the shelter’s location.
“Why build it in an at-risk, poverty-stricken, unstable, decades-long crime-plagued, scary neighborhood?” Carter asked. “Why B street?”
Conversely, Joseph Wheeler, the leader of the advocacy group the Homeless Assembly, said the shelter will be in a “great location” for unhoused folks, many of whom are already staying close by. He added that many people experiencing homelessness cannot afford bus passes, so it’s an ideal location within walking distance.
“It's a great location because there is a large population of unhoused members staying in that area, so it's convenient for them to get to,” Wheeler said. “And if that can take up their need to stay under bridges, their need to stay in abandoned houses, their need to stay on the street in those locations — it's a great location.”
The county commissioners previously selected architectural firm LS3P to finalize the building program and design the center. As part of that process, Steward said the project team will engage various stakeholders, including members of the homeless community, to provide input on the facility’s needs. Stewart also announced she will establish an advisory committee for the project that will be composed of targeted stakeholders in the community.
City council is expected to vote on the rezoning request, along with a special use permit for the property, at its next meeting on Nov. 27.
Contact Evey Weisblat at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-527-3608.