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‘It’s just a first step’: County celebrates breaking ground on homeless support center


Under a Carolina blue sky Monday, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners shoveled the first bits of earth at the future site of the Cumberland County Homeless Support Center. 

“It is a wonderful, wonderful day to be in Cumberland County,” said board Chairman Glenn Adams in opening remarks prior to the groundbreaking. “The Lord has shined down on us with this beautiful weather because he knew what we were about to do today. This is gonna be transformative in our community.” 

The two-story center at 344 Hawley Lane will offer supportive services and temporary shelter to those experiencing homelessness, according to the county. The Fayetteville Observer reported in September that the center will be between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet in size, with Assistant County Manager Brian Haney providing a preliminary cost estimate of $15 million.

“The [c]ounty’s intent is for the facility to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and to provide residents with access to resources well beyond that of a traditional homeless shelter,” county spokesperson Diane Rice said in a Feb. 15 news release. 

After years of discussion about a proposed center, plans finally came to fruition last fall, when the board of commissioners approved architectural firm LS3P to design the center and the school board gave two parcels of land to the county for the site. The Fayetteville City Council unanimously approved a special use permit for the center on Jan. 8.

Adams told CityView the county hopes to have construction completed in less than two years.

Adams told the crowd Monday that Commissioner Toni Stewart had championed the center after being elected in 2020. 

“Sometimes it takes a little kick to get us moving a little bit faster and a little bit stronger, and she’s been that boost for us,” Adams said. “I just wanna say thank you, because sometimes people do get complacent a little bit, but with you on this, I think that we’re headed in the right direction.” 

Stewart said Monday that she will head a six-person committee for the center to get community input during the construction process. The committee will also include Councilman Malik Davis, who represents the district where the center will be located; Ken Hartley, the director of Teague’s Home for Women, which provides shelter to homeless women; Pamela Carter, a resident of the B Street community near the center; and two individuals experiencing homelessness, according to Stewart. 

Stewart told CityView the committee will likely begin meeting in March.

During her remarks at Monday’s ceremony, Stewart said that building a center will not serve as the only solution to homelessness. 

“It’s just a first step,” she said. “We would be remiss if we just thought this shelter would be the end-all be-all to homelessness … I believe that if we are truly going to make Cumberland County a great place for everyone, we must also do all we can to help the least fortunate among us have greater access to decent, safe shelter.” 

Currently, the Salvation Army at 245 Alexander St. provides temporary shelter to the homeless, and the county partners with True Vine Ministries in Spring Lake to operate White Flag shelters during inclement weather.

Mark Sorrells, president of Fayetteville Technical Community College, said the school was excited to partner with the county on the center. FTCC will offer educational opportunities through the shelter, which is located next door to its education center at 225 B St.

“It is our commitment as the community college of Fayetteville and Cumberland County to be hand in hand with you not to give a person a fish, but to teach them to fish so that they can have the opportunity to sustain themselves and their family going forward,” he said. “We will do our share, do our part to open doors, to create opportunities for these individuals to pursue a livelihood that will pay a living wage salary … You can count on Fayetteville Tech.” 

Adams told CityView the process to make the center a reality had been a lengthy one. 

“It’s gone through a number of steps because first, we had to find a location,” he said. “We looked all around the county. We had a couple of other spots. When [County Manager Clarence] Grier came, he said, ‘Why are we looking somewhere else when we’re right next to Fayetteville Tech?’” 

Adams said he was excited the center will serve as more than just a shelter.

“I’m so glad that the county looked at it as not just a center where you come in at night, spend the night and then go back out,” he said. “We said, ‘Let’s do it a little bit bigger. Let’s do it a little bit better. Let’s make it into something that truly transforms people’s lives.’ And that’s what this center does for single men, single women, families.” 

Reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@cityviewnc.com or 910-423-6500.

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Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, homeless, groundbreaking, construction