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Wilmington will hand over an acre to Good Shepherd Center for permanent supportive housing

Good Shepherd
Good Shepherd is Wilmington's largest provider of services for the homeless.

The City of Wilmington will vote next month to give some of its unused land over to a non-profit for permanent, supportive housing for the homeless.

If city council votes in favor, the former site of Wilmington Fire Station 6 will be handed over to Good Shepherd Center, the largest provider of homeless services in the region.

The 1-acre site located at 3939 Carolina Beach Road has been unoccupied since 2019. According to a city of Wilmington press release, it could be redeveloped for up to 33 units of safe, affordable housing with intensive case management for those in need.

Good Shepherd Executive Director Katrina Knight says the site will go a long way to filling the needs of the chronically homeless in New Hanover County.

“Before the pandemic, we probably had an unmet demand of at least 100 permanent supportive housing units," she said. "That's that very special, targeted kind of housing that combines an affordable unit with intensive on-site supportive services. It's the kind of best practice that ends the homelessness of even your folks who've lived in the woods for several years, or maybe their car, or in local parks for a few years.”

Permanent supportive housing includes ongoing services from social workers on-site, and residents aren't expected to leave for different housing- they can stay for life, meaning tens of thousands of dollars in savings for the community between medical costs and policing if that individual had been on the street instead.

The city has gifted land like this to a non-profit before. It gave a different defunct fire station at 3933 Princess Place Drive to LINC last year, for an all-boys boarding school. Given the emphasis the city council and city government have placed on affordable housing, it seems likely this gift will go through.

“Housing affordability is of paramount importance and something we’re working to make a reality for people from all walks of life,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said in a city press release. “By leveraging existing city resources, we aim to build on the success of our partnership with the Good Shepherd Center so that more people will have access to safe shelter and vital services. Strong community partnerships and innovative approaches are helping Wilmington to lead the way in this critical work.”

The Wilmington Planning commission will vote to rezone the location in early August to allow more units, taking it from R-15 to MD-17. Knight said construction isn’t funded yet, but will likely cost millions of dollars.

"It is a costly proposition. However, in the long term, it's actually a real savings for our community," Knight explained. "Because when it's done well, like our Lakeside Reserve, folks end up using our public systems less, they use the ER in the hospital less, they're not engaging with law enforcement any longer because they're not unsheltered and wandering around, looking to have their needs met."

Knight said Good Shepherd will begin raising funds from private and public sources for the construction, along with the ongoing subsidy necessary to keep the completed housing in good condition.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.