Community members came together Monday near the corner of Homestead Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to celebrate good neighbors and build hope for the future.
“Chapel Hill is a great place, and the things that y’all are doing for this community is going to make even it a greater place,” said Narvell Williams, a resident of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service’s Community House. “You may not see it right now, but you will.”
Williams was among more than a dozen people who spoke at the Inter-Faith Council @ SECU Community House groundbreaking ceremony. The house will culminate 28 years of work, IFC Board President Rebecca McCulloh said.
“Let’s dig!” she told roughly 40 community, town and UNC dignitaries before they grabbed golden shovels to turn the first dirt.
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Construction could start in June on the two-story, 52-bed men’s homeless and transitional shelter. Stormwater facilities and groundwork on the 1.66-acre site was completed last summer when U.S. Rep. David Price secured a $250,000 federal Economic Development Initiative grant for the project.
The IFC, town and UNC are working together to open the shelter by next spring.
The Town Council approved plans in 2011 after a contentious public debate about how to screen men who would use the shelter’s 17 planned emergency cots and whether a site near parks, homes and day cares was appropriate. The IFC, town and an advisory committee have created rules aimed at easing those concerns.
Former Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy and Gordon Merklein, UNC’s executive director of real estate development, led the capital campaign, which has raised $5.45 million toward the $5.76 million goal since December 2012.
UNC is leasing the land to the town at $1 a year for 50 years; the IFC will sublease the land from the town and operate the shelter. Community House has been located in the town’s Old Municipal Building on West Rosemary Street since 1986. The town could sell that building.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he was nervous but proud to help launch the new Community House.
“It’s not just building and laying the bricks that will create this building, but creating the hope, the dreams and helping others attain those dreams that this will become part of,” he said. “I look forward to serving with you and making that dream come true.”