WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) released findings from a three-day, outreach support visit conducted by Block by Block (BBB) September 12-14 to assess the support needs of downtown Wilmington’s homeless population.
BBB was contracted by WDI’s Municipal Service District (MSD) in collaboration with the City of Wilmington.
Initial recommendations included better access to shelters and more coordinated support by the region’s social services providers.
BBB provided counts of the unsheltered population during the three-day period, assessment of panhandling, and results of observations and conversations conducted to understand the challenges faced by these individuals.
Access to food and shelter space was reviewed, along with conditions applicable to shelters.
The following recommendations were made by Chico Lockhart, project manager for outreach services with BBB:
● It would be ideal to have social service providers coordinate a joint effort in helping the population, including representatives of shelters, mental health services, and substance abuse counselors.
● MSD Ambassadors can be utilized to spread knowledge about where to access food, as well as specific knowledge about the area’s resources. It would be helpful to have an up-to-date resources and services providers list on hand, including hours of operation and contact information for accessing these resources.
● Churches or other organizations that want to help could coordinate more space for people to sleep during the day and keep them from sleeping in public spaces.
● Exploring some space for unsheltered people to store their belongings could improve the appearance of downtown.
● It’s recommended the police patrol more at Third and Grace streets where it seems most of the illegal activity is occurring. Amplified police presence could significantly decrease negative behaviors, and perhaps lead more people who are currently unhoused to think about accessing services and seeking stability.
“Ultimately, there has to be services that are made more accessible for people in order to be effective,” said Lockhart. “Otherwise, people will continue to lack hope that there is help or something better for them in Wilmington. Hope needs to be restored in order for people to want to change their situation.”
The findings will be addressed in WDI’s new MSD “Street Outreach Specialist Pilot Project.”
The Street Outreach Specialist Pilot Project is a one-year pilot program that will be implemented by the Municipal Services District (MSD) Ambassadors Program to help connect the homeless population with the necessary services to help them lead productive lives in the community.
The pilot program includes the hiring of a full-time social worker to help facilitate access to services and oversee case management of those who are receptive to receiving help, and the provision of transportation for homeless individuals to get to places offering help.
Monies derived from MSD tax dollars will be used to fund the social worker and a further $1,500 for transportation costs.
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