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New pilot project will help provide social services to the homeless in downtown Wilmington

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Holly Childs President and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated

At its Monday meeting, Wilmington’s City Council heard a proposal to address the increasing problem of homelessness in the city.

A recent analysis shows in the downtown Municipal Services District -- which covers the central business district (you can find a map here) -- there are an average of 30 homeless individuals during the day, with an average of 20 people sleeping in downtown overnight.

Holly Childs, is the President and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated (WDI).

“We realize these people that have been on our streets, in the city, they are our residents too. We need to provide services to them, they’re vulnerable, they’re highly visible, and trying to connect them to the services they might need whatever those may be,” she said.

The proposal would involve a one-year pilot project in collaboration with the city and WDI. It would create a new position of street outreach specialist -- a trained social worker -- to connect unhoused individuals in downtown Wilmington with social services.

The outreach specialist will be trained to identify individuals in need, and connect them with the appropriate agencies. He or she will also be a part of the MSD ambassador staff, spending 40 hours a week on the streets building relationships.

Mayor Bill Saffo says the homeless problem has intensified since Hurricane Florence, and this initiative will help.

“This is a great way to make certain those folks can get the help they need if they want it,” he said.

WDI is currently recruiting for the street outreach specialist position and hopes work can begin on this project in October. The pilot program will be funded by the Municipal Services District fund (which pulls from a 7-cent tax per $100 of property values on businesses in the central business district).

Ashley Brown is from from Houston, TX. She holds a BA in Mass Communication from Sam Houston State University and an MA in Professional Communication and Digital Media from Texas Southern University. Her love of news, radio, and entertainment led her to the field of journalism. As a creative person, she loves the journalistic challenge of putting stories together. And as a future news reporter, she hopes to tell stories that reach and affect people. In her spare time, she enjoys music, reading, journaling, spending time with friends and family, and trying out new brunch places to eat.