Proposed Durham Homeless Services Center aims to help alleviate shelter system

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Thursday, December 14, 2023
Proposed homeless service center aims to help alleviate shelter system
As of December, there are nearly 50 families and 60 adults in need of a place to live, according to Urban Ministries of Durham's executive director.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the number of people experiencing homelessness rises in Durham, Urban Ministries of Durham is backed up with a growing waiting list of families and adults in need of emergency shelter.

As of December, there are nearly 50 families and 60 adults in need of a place to live, according to a presentation made by UMD executive director Sheldon Mitchell to city and county officials on Tuesday.

"As we look at that list, compared to those who are already in shelter, that's over 400 individuals who have already sought help or are seeking help," Mitchell said. "That does not even include those who may be unsheltered who have not reached out for that help at this time."

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The shelter is just one of two public emergency shelters in Durham, according to Mitchell, who said Families Moving Forward on N. Queen St. primarily serves families.

"Unfortunately, we've seen that as communities grow, oftentimes those who are in crisis and those who are homeless, those numbers also grow," Mitchell said.

He added they hope to expand by proposing a new service center in the parking lot of St. Philip's Episcopal Church. The church is right next to UMD on the same square block between Liberty and Main Street, making it a primary location to help those in need.

"We believe that by bringing a project such as the Homeless Service Center there's the potential for day services so individuals can meet their basic needs from taking a shower to doing laundry," Mitchell said. "It allows us to continue to be in operations during the time when this project would be built."

The project is in the early stages of planning but Mitchell hopes city and county leaders will move forward with a framework.

"We know as more and more people are seeking to come into the system and our capacity is limited, that just puts more individuals in really crisis situations, precarious situations," Mitchell said. "There are other partners ... who are coming together to help apply what we feel like is a creative and bold solution that's going to help add new services that can be provided to those who are unsheltered, help to expand capacity, and also really help to address priorities of our homeless housing system within Durham."