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RaleighLover

The Homeless in Raleigh

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It's no secret that in parts of downtown there are some bad issues with poverty and homelessness. Every year I delivery meals on Thanksgiving for the Raleigh Rescue Mission and I've seen the awful conditions people have to live in in parts of downtown first hand.

The question is: What can do we about it? What can the city do about it? What can the city do to get people off the street and out of the God awful places those who do have homes have to live in now and into decent housing?

Thoughts?

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Well, Raleigh needs to enforce existing loitering/trespassing laws. Most homeless are not poor down on their luck people that don't have jobs but are usually ex-convicts, drug addicts, and/or the mentally ill. I don't know what to do with them but hopefully they can reduce the numbers downtown. Chapel Hill has finally decided to move the homeless shelter out of downtown to a location out near the highway.

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How insensitive! Taking an elitist stance on the homelessness is not the way. Also moving homeless sheltors to a highway will not solve anything, but create more problems. Homelessness is an unfortunate aspect of a capitalist society that is very real. It's a problem that cannot be just swept under the rug. I commend the efforts of the homeless center on wilmington street. Everybody is not going to be the typical middle class or rich upper class standard in Raleigh, but we can definitely enforce stronger rules and organization on the homelessness situation. I admit there are some actual bums, but i've worked with the homeless before. Surprisingly most of them are just intellectualy inept when it comes to functioning in our society. I know it can be harrassing for people to ask you for money,but not every homeless person does that. For the ones that do, there needs to be strictor rules. Some homeless people though, are just enjoying the atmosphere just like anybody else. As long as no one is harming or harassing anybody, then theres no problem IMO. If uppity people feel offended, because some other people aren't as fortunate, then tooooo baaaaadd!

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Well, Raleigh needs to enforce existing loitering/trespassing laws. Most homeless are not poor down on their luck people that don't have jobs but are usually ex-convicts, drug addicts, and/or the mentally ill. I don't know what to do with them but hopefully they can reduce the numbers downtown. Chapel Hill has finally decided to move the homeless shelter out of downtown to a location out near the highway.

First of all, how is it that someone who is an ex-convict, drug addict, and/or mentally ill not also poor or down on their luck? That seems like the very definition of down on your luck to me, and any one or more of those factors would tand to make one unable to keep a job, and therefore poor.

Secondly, the highway vs. downtown issue is a tricky one. I don't like being pestered by panhandlers any more than the next guy, but these folks generally go downtown because there is a high concentration of activities in a walkable area, and most of them don't have transportation other than their own two feet. Also, it would seem to me that one way to dissuade socially aberrant behavior (like begging or harrassment) is to increase the level of street activity and economic diversity in a community.

Getting at the root of homelessness seems to be a better and long term more cost effective aproach. Communities should be doing things like providing wealth creation and home ownership programs in marginal neighborhoods, work training and life skills programs for the disadvantaged, providing more care for the mentally disabled, providing proactive recovery programs for the substance addicted, providing recouperative rather than punitive detention facilities and better transitions back into civil soociety for those who commit crimes; seems like all of these would be a better approach than simply moving the shelter out of sight so us middle class folks don't have to think about the results of our inattention to our neighbors.

To me moving the shelter out of sight is just glossing over the problem and doing a disservice to us all, especially to those among us who need the most assistance.

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The reason downtown needs a multiBILLION dollar revitalization is that people with money do not want to be around people who don't have anything to lose. It is not about arrogance, it is about survival. This is the most fundamental and most ignored truth about sprawl. It isn't about gas prices or supply. It is about the perceived level of safety. Unless the homeless presence in downtown is changed, it is unfair for the city to hold a gun to our heads to fund projects that continue to fail in the presence of the homeless. We cannot ignore or caudle this problem, and it is cruel to continue doing so.

Let's go back to the days that we didn't have such prevalent homelessness. We had mental institutions that contained a certain proportion of our population. It is not a random coincidence that the release of these patients into society and the shrinking of these facilities occurred precisely at the time our inner cities crumbled and we all sprawled.

The only answer we currently have that would undoubtedly work is to proportionally increase these facilities and services and get these people who are not emotionally, intellectually, and or chemically able to thrive in society out of areas where they are killing that same society (Or at least that's the way it is done in many countries and was done in America during the era that so many of you yearn for; the era of pre-sprawl urbanism.)

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My step mother works for CASA, Community Alternatives for Supportive Abodes. They provide subsidized housing for people with a history of mental illness, addiciton, and homelessness. Several years back they tried to acquire the Kings Motel, I believe its called, on S. Wilmington St and received massive criticism from the neighborhood. People saying they didnt want "those kind of people" being housed in their neighborhood. So, you see, it isn't only rich people that dont want to associate with the homeless. How much worse could that area get? There's a burned down porn store there just sitting empty, a sleazy motel, a dog food (or whatever they make) plant, and pretty much a 4 lane highway. The plans that CASA had to reno the motel weren't exasctly impressive, but it would have looked a lot better than it does now. I think more funding needs to go to non-profits like CASA so that they can continue to scout out and rehab old motels, apartment buildings, and homes into multi-unit housing properties to assist the less fortunate.

Why doesn't the city offer these people jobs? They cold do simple things like clean up litter in the parks, or operate vendor carts, or something. I remember this homeless guy that used to come into the store I worked at just outside of downtown. He would go around to area businesses and ask if he could go through the trash to get the aluminum cans out. He was abandoned by his family here in the early 80's, and has been here ever since collecting cans, taking them to the recylcing center, and using the money to get a bus ticket to texas to go look for his family. There has to be some kind of program the city can put together to help assist these people in getting back on their feet. Be it collecting aluminum cans, cleaning parks, or whatever. It's an awful situation for a human being to have to endure, and we need to be doing all we can to help correct it.

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I think the job approach is the way to go. First, build a special housing complex (one that's safe and clean, not like a typical 'project') to give the people some place to live until they can get on their feet and find their own place. Second, start some sort of program to help these people find jobs. As for where to build the complex I think MLK isn't a bad street to build it on. It goes through one of the poorest sections of Raleigh, where the need for something like that is needed, and all that's on MLK pretty much is terrible houses (mostly houses converted into cheap apartments) in terrible condition which I can only described as "slums." In volunteering for the Raleigh Rescue Mission I've been in a lot of the houses on MLK and the condition the people are living in inside them can only be described as shocking and I'll go a step further and say immoral.

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Does the city of Raleigh offer any help now to homeless? If so, at what level.

This may sounds crass, but there has to be an effort on the individual to get out of the situation they are in. A city (any city) must offer reasonable help. There must be a contract of sorts, let the individual have a place to stay for 3 months, offer the individual a job, and offer support (when ever its needed).

"Teach a man to fish"

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No matter how much housing is built, it is never enough. In addition to the Wilmington Street shelter and several group homes and soup kitchens around downtown, Halifax Court was rebuilt into Capitol Park, Chavis Heights (on MLK just east of East street) was torn down and is currently being rebuilt, and Carlton Place is also under construction, but there will still be a need for more. Also, people with criminal and/or drug/chemical dependeny past are not allowed, into affordable housing, so they end up in cheap, rundown housing, which is worse.

Slumlords do as little maintenance as possible to keep costs down, and the city inspections department can not enforce existing code standards. The city tried to do concentrated code enforcement in my neighborhood (a "redevlopment area" for the last 20 years) to force slumlords to bring their properties up to code. But it was voluntary, so slumlords just said no and the rest of the neighborhood told the city to mind it's own business instead of telling home owners how to maintain their property. There is little to no oversight for rental property, and as long as it stays concentrated in southeast raleigh, the rest of the city doesn't care and therefore is not a problem.

The "sleazey hotel by the burned down porn store" is Kings Motel, the property CASA wanted to buy. The neigborhood across wilmington is affodable housing and the shelter, and they didn't want even more of their share of the homless burden in the area. The neighborhood just to the east is trying to get better via the weed and seed program -- remove drug dealers and replace them with home owners. In the 80s, several HUD houses were built around the corner from me -- over half of them were eventually repossessed because of loan defaults. Slumlords bought the property cheap and then rented it out to the lowest common denominator, and you're right back where you started. The rest of Raleigh has nothing close to affordable housing to keep a buffer from "those people". They have the time and money to petition city council, so the city does nothing.

On Friday, a man better dressed than I was asked me for money to get him and his diabetic wife back to Charlotte (I guess everyone who had to get back to fayetville has now returned home?). I was like, umm, I don't have the money to spend on nice clothes, let alone get married, let alone drive three hours away, but I'm supposed to fund someone else's excursion??? There was nothing wrong this person mentally, physically, etc. he just wanted money. The unseen "cost" of transactions like this making people feel unsafe downtown is not high enough to do something about it. The "safety in numbers" theory doesn't hold up either -- the more people that are around seems to only encorage more panhandling, like along hillsborough street near NC State.

Creating jobs seems like a good solution, but most people really don't want to work if they can get a handout. If they only show up to work when they feel like it, they're not going to be much help to the city. The city already has a stocked park cleaning staff that did help some people get off the street, but there is only so many parks to clean and X dollars to go around. I've coordinated several neighborhood right-of-way trash pickups in my neighood. Several times I'm asked for money. I offer to pay them to help, and every time they just walk away. Most of the yellow shirt downtown raleigh alliance "street team" is never helpful either, pairing up and just talking to each other instead of actually helping people.

Volunteering on Thanksgiving day is nice, but what do you do to help the other 364 days? "Teach a man to fish" not only doesn't take into account taking the man to the fishing hole, but also assumes he thinks ahead and budgets to buy bait *and* has the discipline to not sell the fishing pole and then be hungry again a few days later without a pole.

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The Homeless and the Beggers are very different sets of people. I lived next to the CAT station for almost 2 years and was asked for money daily often by people who had done so numerous times. In an instant I sized up people by how they were dressed, how they approached me and what their line was. Three times out of over 100 I actually gave someone cash. Here is a summary of some of peoples first lines to me and my response, from lets say most aggravating experience to best experience.

A guy who sits on the bench facing Martin Street every day giggling and pointing at people, mid 40's..."Hey little white man *giggle* you gonna give me some money" I walked up to his face and angerly said "does it say free money on my forehead!", he backed off and said sorry dude.

A well dressed man with a brief case asks for gas money, promises his car is just around the corner, he sounds believable but I just happen to be broke that day. Another guy dressed not quite as well walks up with the exact same story but does not spin it as well, I have money but say no. The same story is spun a third time by someone different and I finally lose it and tell the guy I am tired of idiots not watching their gas needle.

A guy and his 'wife' need money to get back to Rocky Mount from Moore Square. Supposedly he works for the sanitation department (he is wearing an orange vest) and is employed, just in a tight spot. I decline based on my previous experience with gas related stories. The same couple gives me the same story a week later outside Peace Street Market.

A guy at the bus station, starts with "I hate to ask but I don't work..." his approach softens me a bit so I politely say no. I happen to need a hand carrying a heavy piece of furniture and pay him 5 bucks for a hand. We talk for over an hour, and it turns out he has "the virus"

A guy about my age, but dirty and built like a football player strikes up conversations with me outside Greenshields. He never asks for money. I see him take out trash some nights and then eating chicken wings on the side walk. We talk multiple times and he tells me it sucks sleeping in the cold but he never asks for money. After a month, he says he hopes I don't think differently of him but he could really use a dollar. I have never seen him drink or cause trouble. He even claims to have chased away someone messing with my Jeep top one night. Instead of a dollar I give him ten...it is the week before christmas...I tell him its because he never asked before and I respected him for trying to work for a chicken wing. He later brings me a dirty scratched up medallion with a picture of jesus on it and gives it to me as a chirstmas present.

A very scared looking and skinny guy shows me a bus ticket to Atlanta that the open door chapel had just bought him. He says his girlfriend kicked him out and the only place he can stay is with family down in Hotlanta. He asks me if I'd buy him a bad of chips from subway since he has ten hours until the bus comes. I then offer to buy him a sandwich...he hesitates then says the 99 cent special will be fine. I order him a footlong steak sandwich with a large cup and tell the cashier they better let him back in for refills. He thanks me about 10 times, tries to tell me his family's address in Atlanta and slowly eats his sandwich with his hands shaking.

The point of all this is that there are all types, some cause problems, some have problems of their own. I don't know what the solution is but I do know one approach is not sufficient. As you can see, sometimes I am not nice at all, other times, I extend a hand. I urge each of you to think with versatility on this issue, and hopefully the city can do the same.

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This is a sensitive issue. But I used to work very close to this type of problem downtown and was told by a homeless man that the reason it is so bad in Raleigh is because the word is out that Raleigh welcomes these types of people. He told me that he was from Boston and caught wind that Raleigh, NC accepts homeless people, so he made the trip down here.

What I mean by "accepts" is that there is no enforcement of these types of people. Up north they are harrassed and threatened by law enforcement. A "zero tolerance" rule so to speak. Raleigh doesn't have anything like this, so it is appealing to homeless people. Until the city decides to enforce things like this the problem will always exist and only get worse because the door is open.

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Personally, I give as much as possible of things I'm gettting rid of to Raleigh Rescue Mission and Goodwill Community Foundation, both on Hargett.

Money wise, I give to the door fund of Sacred Heart on Hillsborough. They are a better judge than I of who is truely needy, and they can pool several donations to make a better difference. When walking/biking/whatever, I don't carry cash unless I plan on eating. Then I carry just enough for what I plan on buying. If anyone asks for money, I point them to the rescue mission/salvation army, the lunch soup kitchens, and the Wilmington Street shelter.

We know how to properly handle this, but those in from the suburbs don't see this on a regular basis, don't know how to properly handle it, and never come back to downtown. This is another part of the equation that needs to be solved, and there are no easy answers. There used to be posters up in some businesses near moore square, but most of them seem to be gone now.

I think the temperate weather as well as tolerance, makes the triangle as a whole attractive to transients. This has put a disproportinate stress on the city's programs to help the homeless, so a lot of people are unintentionally left out of the support network.

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Let's go back to the days that we didn't have such prevalent homelessness. We had mental institutions that contained a certain proportion of our population. It is not a random coincidence that the release of these patients into society and the shrinking of these facilities occurred precisely at the time our inner cities crumbled and we all sprawled.

This is so true. Back in the 80's when many the shrinking of facilities happened, a big jump in homelessness on the streets happened. When they started to close, the institutions would give the people a one-way bus tickets to the nearest big city. If you went to NY at this time, you could not leave tips on outside tables as the homeless were waiting in the wing to come by and snatch it up. Or they would just come to your table and ask for money.

The mentality ill make up for most of them I think. Not sure what you can do with a schizophrenic person on the street. I have a friend who is schizophrenic and he would be on the streets if his parents were not both Doctors. He could scare the beJesus out of you if you saw him on the street at night and he was harmless and owned a car and now a house and spoke 3 languages and and graduated from college (went to 21 schools but did graduate). But he can not hold down a job and very few people would hire him even though he tried. It was not built into his DNA.

What scares me are the Meth and Crack heads. They are out for more than to just eat. A hungry man has more options than a man looking for meth. Just ask those 2 NCSU students who were robbing people on Hillsborough street. I could be wrong but that was not for jollies.

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