City of Wilmington and New Hanover County agree to homeless intervention partnership
Wilmington City Council and the New Hanover Board of Commissioners both unanimously voted to pass resolutions stating their commitment to work with one another to help the homeless population.
The program will not provide housing, but will connect those in need with services.
Part of the effort will include Wilmington Police officers teaming up with social workers from the county’s health and human services department to reach out to those who are homeless.
New Hanover County’s Director of Health and Human Services Donna Fayko reiterated that interactions will follow a “harm reduction philosophy” and they will be treated without judgment.
“We’ve got to learn their stories, and focus on their strengths, and not make assumptions about what we think they may need.”
At the Wilmington City Council meeting, council members were given clarification as to what the city’s role would be in the partnership.
The City would be responsible for providing “up to four” police officers for protection of the social workers as well as for enforcement of the law and city ordinances when necessary.
The county is responsible for the social workers. They have also agreed to carry the extra cost of cleanup of areas to reduce trash.
But the overall goal of the program is to establish a personal relationship with these homeless individuals.
Staff at the council meeting say they are ready to hear “no” from them, but say they will remain persistent in getting them help. Fayko said it takes an average of 16 interactions with homeless individuals before they are open and willing to accept help.
Funding for this program will initially come from both city and county American Rescue Plan Act funds. Once ARPA funds run out, local dollars will be needed to continue supporting the program.
The initial program will operate as a pilot program starting October 1 and will continue until December 2024.