A group of homeless women gathered for lunch one day this month with Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes, county staff members and nonprofit leaders at A Place at the Table, a pay-what-you-can restaurant downtown.
They talked about services that are needed to help homeless women in Wake.
“There were things that those women brought up that we literally had not thought about despite all our years of dealing with housing and dealing with homelessness,” Holmes said. “All of us there with different perspectives at the table, but they told things and expressed challenges to us that are currently within our control to fix that we simply had no knowledge of. We simply weren’t sitting in their seats.”
The conversation was part of Wake County’s plan to open its first homeless shelter for women. Wake already operates a 243-bed shelter for homeless men at the South Wilmington Street Center. The county partners with organizations such as the Helen Wright Center, Raleigh Rescue Mission and Healing Transitions to help women, but leaders say they want to set the stage for a long-term solution.
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“I can tell you, Wake County, we are shifting into a totally different gear when it comes to ensuring housing opportunities for all of our citizens,” Holmes said.
It’s unclear where the new shelter would be located, but commissioners voted Monday to spend $750,000 in federal money to “support (the) acquisition and rehabilitation of a structure to be used as a homeless shelter for women.” The money is from the Community Development Block Grant, which is awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Wake County saw a rise in its homeless population last year, although homelessness decreased overall in North Carolina. During a one-night count in January 2017, about 65 of the 188 homeless people in Wake were women, said Alicia Arnold, director of housing and transportation for Wake.
Wake leaders have put a big emphasis on increasing the stock of affordable housing. Some people point to a shortage of affordable housing as a factor in the increasing homeless population.
On Monday, commissioners also approved a grant of $84,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to buy six lots in Wake Forest. The lots are in the new Hargrove’s Corner subdivision at the corner of Caddell and East Spring streets.