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Greensboro Coordinates To Ensure Cold Weather Shelter For Homeless Population

A picture of a homeless man and a shopping cart.
Matthew Woitunski
Local organizations estimate that about 80 homeless people live in Greensboro.

Greensboro's homeless population is now guaranteed a safe place to spend the night when the weather drops to dangerous temperatures. This "white flag" emergency system was created after the city's two shelters turned people away on such nights last winter because they reached capacity.

Michelle Kennedy directs the Interactive Resource Center. Her organization offers daytime services and case management, but isn't a shelter.

"The IRC will be kind of the brains of the operation, for lack of a better term," Kennedy says. "We're the organization that will determine where folks need to go and work out the logistics and transportation and all of those things and make sure they get to the shelter that they've been assigned to on nights when the weather is life threatening."

Kennedy says the IRC will coordinate with local shelters at the YWCAand Greensboro Urban Ministry to determine when to initiate the white flag system.

"This is crisis response. This is about saving people's lives, not programming. The purpose of the white flag emergency system is to keep people alive. And then, if we have partners like the YWCA and Greensboro Urban Ministry, who are able to provide that space, that allows us then, at the IRC during the day to address that person's more longer-term needs."

White flag alert information will be available by dialing 2-1-1 and on social media. The system opens more beds and warming shelters at the facilities- accommodating up to 80 people. In case of overflow, more people will be welcomed at a local recreation center.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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