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Homeless Continuum of Care asks Wilmington and New Hanover County to only fund participating agencies

A typical home in the Eden Village community meant for one resident. The homes are fully operational.
Camille Mojica
A typical home in the Eden Village community meant for one resident. The homes are fully operational.

The move would bring the city and county in line with other local governments around the country, according to local service providers. But, notably, it would exclude Eden Village from city and county resources until it begins data sharing as other Continuum of Care organizations do.

The Cape Fear Continuum of Care is the regional federally-mandated umbrella organization that coordinates most homeless services in the community.

Each year, it hands out $750,000 in grants from state and federal sources — and it helps with coordinating case management across dozens of local organizations. Last month, the CoC board discussed one organization that’s avoided coming under its umbrella: Eden Village.

The issue came up because Eden Village is seeking a donation of land from the city to host “God pods” — tiny rooms that provide shelter to unhoused people for $10 a night. Before that new idea, Eden Village built a tiny home community for the chronically homeless.

Related: Eden Village holds grand opening

The tiny home community, supported by the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County, has 31 formerly homeless residents — and they were hand-picked by Eden Village. That’s quite different from the “coordinated entry” model of the CoC, which selects people based on the severity of their needs and how long they’ve been on the waitlist.

Instead of voting on whether to support the God Pods, the CoC board eventually discussed something else. Here’s board member Meg McBride at the January CoC Meeting.

" I thought that we had agreed — maybe we didn't formally agree — that before Eden Village received any further assistance, especially financial, from the city or county, that they would have to be participating in HMIS and coordinated entry," McBride said.

McBride is talking about two programs: HMIS and Coordinated Entry. HMIS, which stands for Homeless Management Information System, collects data on who is homeless, what kind of services they’re using, and if they’re making progress towards permanent housing.

Coordinated Entry ensures equitable prioritization of who gets resources. McBride’s point — Eden Village has not engaged with either of these programs. McBride told WHQR that HMIS is a key tool for effectively coordinating efforts.

"When everyone participates in that system, whether or not we are federally funded organizations, we get the most robust, clear and accurate picture of homelessness in our region," she explained. "And then we're able to make decisions as a collaborative with the over 50 organizations that are members of the COC.”

The CoC board voted to send letters to local government officials, requesting that they mandate HMIS and Coordinated Entry participation in order to give local funding to any homeless services organizations. They argue that would set them in line with other regional governments around the country.

The CoC is basically saying: Please do the good work, but share your data, and be equitable about who gets the resources.

If the city and county made that change, Eden Village would be excluded from local funding — until it starts doing HMIS, at least.

Tom Dalton, who founded Eden Village, said he’s not concerned about getting funding through the CoC.

"I would tell you that we're happy to work with them, we're not looking for funding through the COC, we follow a different model in regard to what some of those folks do in regard to getting federal funding," Dalton said.

There’s more to federal funding than just Coordinated Entry and HMIS — federal grants don’t allow organizations to require income or charge more than 30% of income for rent and Eden Village does all of those things.

But Dalton has received at least $500,000 worth of combined support from Wilmington and New Hanover County — and according to public emails, he’s garnered offers for additional support through meetings with city council members.

Dalton said he’s willing to use HMIS at his 'God pods,' if a CoC staffer comes to collect the data. That’s something that’s worked for the new downtown day shelter, without burdening volunteers and staff.

It’s notable that Dalton has a philosophical disagreement with the CoC as well. Whereas the CoC board largely agrees that homelessness is an affordable housing crisis, Dalton sees it differently.

"I think we need to separate out the conversation of affordable housing, from housing the homeless, those are two very different things," he said.

The city and county are likely to discuss the request in the letter at the joint city-county meeting on homelessness on February 7.

Below: Letters from the CoC to Wilmington and New Hanover County officials.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on 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.