Homelessness

Dr. Leslie Smith speaks on the State of Things.
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When Leslie Smith was 24 years old, she was in a fire. After spending 3 months at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, she was released. Smith told Host Frank Stasio “It took me about ten years to recover from those injuries.”

“I had bandages from my neck down to my thighs where my burns were, and then from my thighs down to my ankles where they had taken skin to do skin grafting operations. So I literally was covered from ankle to neck in bandages.”

More beds are available for the homeless in Durham as the need for shelters continues to rise across North Carolina.  The Durham Rescue Mission has opened a new facility with beds for 88 men as well as a large kitchen and dining area.  The Triangle is among North Carolina's metropolitan areas where more people are looking for a meal and a place to sleep.  Durham Rescue Mission COO Rob Tart says shelters are also trying to adapt to new needs for the homeless population.

"I've been doing this for 17 years and we had very few intact families that showed up 17 years ago," says Tart.

Workers across the state will try to get an accurate count this week of the homeless population. Each year the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, HUD, requires states to calculate the number of people who are homeless. This count takes place at shelters, as well as tallying the people at tent camps, under bridges and even those staying with relatives.  Darryl Kosciak is Executive Director of Partners Ending Homelessness, in Greensboro.

On Tuesday night in Greensboro the temperature is expected to drop into the teens and shelters are expecting to be at or near capacity. Four years ago there was a significant rise in the number of people seeking shelter during the winter months. Greensboro didn’t have enough beds and on many cold nights dozens of people had to sleep on floors. The city responded by opening a half dozen winter emergency shelters for frigid nights like tonight. Reverend Mike Aiken says those facilities opened December 1st and will be packed this week.

Liz Seymour was in her 50s when she found herself divorced, living in a group house with her foster son and dumpster diving for food. She had left her comfortable, middle class existence willingly in order to find what she calls her "right-sized life." She became an anarchist and activist. Today she is the executive director of the Interactive Resource Center, Greensboro's only day center for people managing homelessness. Liz Seymour joins host Frank Stasio to discuss her journey from orderliness into happy chaos.

Durham will soon be home to some of North Carolina's first housing for homeless veterans with disabilities. The 10-unit complex near Northgate Mall will have affordable rents and will connect tenants with support services.

Jess Brandes is projects coordinator for CASA, the nonprofit developing the site. She says Durham has a lot of services for veterans because of the VA medical center there.

Teams of volunteers are out on the streets and at campsites across Wake and Orange Counties this week, surveying the homeless population. It's part of a national effort to house 100-thousand people who are homeless by the middle of next year. The United Way's Chantelle Fisher-Borne is the coordinator of Triangle Registry Week.

With the winter approaching more beds are being made available to people who are homeless.

In recent weeks shelters in Greensboro have turned away a significant number of people seeking assistance. This week eight winter emergency, or 'WE' shelters are opening throughout the city. One new site is at the YWCA. It will serve up to 25 single women each night. Sharon Sumner is Director of the WE Shelters for the Greensboro Urban Ministries. She says this new shelter increases capacity where there is a growing demand.

A homeless shelter for women veterans in Fayetteville is getting a makeover. The ABC reality television program "Extreme Makeover Home Edition," selected the shelter run by former Navy officer Barbara Marshall. Her organization Steps-n-Stages works to house women vets in the home. It will be renovated by a company called Blue Ridge Log Cabins. The show has also partnered with the USO of North Carolina to organize a food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Renee Lane is director of the Fort Bragg Center of the USO of North Carolina. She says there will be a big food drive this Sunday in Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville.

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