NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – At Monday’s meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a pilot program with the City of Wilmington to help connect individuals experiencing homelessness with much-needed resources. The Street Outreach Program goes before the Wilmington City Council on Tuesday night for a vote.
Through the program, the county plans to hire social workers through its Health and Human Services Department to work in partnership with officers from the Wilmington Police Department to directly help individuals experiencing homelessness.
“We understand that there are oftentimes impediments to a person being able to find their way out of homelessness like a lack of employment, mental health or substance use disorders, a lack of available affordable housing, and other barriers,” said Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko. “And we know that each person’s needs are different and should be treated as such. So by partnering together to provide wrap-around support services and case management for those in a housing crisis, we are hoping to make an impact on homelessness in our area and on the quality of life for the individuals who need our help most.”
The county and city outreach teams will partner with local nonprofits and other agencies who provide needed services and connect people with the assistance and support they need. They will also collaborate with Wilmington Downtown Inc.’s Block By Block homeless advocate and participate in the Cape Fear Council of Government’s Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council and Coordinated Entry process.
“Working together is the right approach, because we know that a range of options and services are needed,” said County Manager Chris Coudriet. “So we will be coordinating this entire program with our non-profit and faith communities that have made working on this challenge their priority too. This approach will help direct individuals to the support they need and will also help to ensure compliance with rules for everyone’s safety. We feel like this new team, and the increased partnerships that will result, can help reduce the number of individuals living in homelessness and provide every person with the right access to the services and support they need.”
New Hanover County plans to use American Rescue Plan funding to hire four new social workers and one supervisor for this new initiative, all who will solely focus on outreach into the community and working with those who are experiencing homelessness. The planned start date of the Getting Home program is October 1, with the county’s social work team fully staffed by November 1. While this is a pilot program, the intention is for it to continue through at least December 31, 2024 with continuous evaluation and adjustments if needed. Further funding allocations would then be re-evaluated prior to the end of 2024.
In addition to providing support for the homeless through the program, the county will also work to keep areas where the homeless gather, particularly in downtown Wilmington, clean and attractive by using contracted services and/or county departments such as Environmental Management.