A nonprofit that assists local residents with housing and rental assistance said it hopes to find the money and land to build a homeless shelter in Elizabeth City as soon as a year from now.
Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, president and CEO of River City Community Development Corp., said the nonprofit is looking at designs that would allow the shelter to serve men, women and families within the same building. The facility would include separate sections for each type of guest, she said.
River City CDC staff have visited shelters in other areas to get ideas about what to build here and how to operate it.
Carolyn Anderson, emergency solutions grant homelessness coordinator for River City CDC, said the numbers of homeless people in the community has escalated since April, when the nonprofit first started its emergency sheltering program.
In January River City got a grant for “rapid rehousing,” which involves different agencies working to get people housed. That program offers assistance with down payments and first month’s rent, help getting utilities turned on, job placement, help with budgeting and financial literacy.
The grant is funded though the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services but the funding ultimately comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Anderson explained that because there is not a permanent community shelter in the area the program is able to fund opportunities for “emergency shelter” at local motels.
Between April and the end of November, River City CDC sheltered 78 families, representing 148 individuals — 52 of whom were under the age of 18, according to Anderson.
“Since the inception of the Rapid Re-Housing program in January of this year, 28 families have been housed and placed in permanent housing through the (that) component of the program,” she said. “A few more families are scheduled to be housed before the end of the year.”
Anderson said River City CDC staff have been busy investigating and researching the feasibility of building and operating a homeless shelter here. The focus right now is on identifying funding for the project.
Jarvis-Mackey said working with people who are homeless has been part of what River City CDC has done from its inception, but the program has gotten a boost in the past year from the new emergency housing grant and the COVID-related homeless services funding the nonprofit has been awarded.
When River City CDC was starting out and concentrating on McMorrine Street she met a lot of homeless people, she said.
“We have always tried to help the homeless population as part of what we do,” Jarvis-Mackey said.
Although the program tries to place people in permanent housing and help them become self-sufficient, the current grant doesn’t limit the number of nights the nonprofit can place someone in a hotel, she said.
“We try to provide the hotels for as long as they need,” Jarvis-Mackey said.
The program also offers appropriate counseling and connection to counseling services, job placement and support, and assistance in obtaining long-term housing, she said.
Jarvis-Mackey said she hasn’t approached city officials for funding but hopes the city will be willing to support what River City CDC is doing to plan for a permanent homeless shelter.
“City revenue could expand the work we are doing,” she said.
River City CDC currently is looking for land and funding to build a homeless shelter so it probably will be 12 months or more before any groundbreaking happens, she said.
“Our goal is to build it from the ground up,” Jarvis-Mackey said.
The initial thought is that the shelter should be built to accommodate up to 50 people, she said.
“We have been doing a lot to get this started because we know it is a dire need in our city,” Jarvis-Mackey said.