Urban Ministries of Durham has seven families and several individuals ready to move out of its homeless shelter and into residences of their own this month.
Trouble is, once they move out, they lose the support the shelter provides. Typically, they're without social contacts and family - not to mention furniture, sheets and towels.
"They'll be lost," said UMD Director Patrice Nelson. And the odds are good they'll end up in a shelter again.
Preventing that cycle is one goal of Durham's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. So, UMD and other agencies devised a pilot support program for people setting out on their own. Last week, Nelson presented it to the 10-Year Plan's executive committee.
She got a go-ahead that was begrudging and demonstrated what's been wrong with the 10-Year Plan for the first three years of its operation.
""Everybody wants to do things his or her way," said Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden, the executive committee's chairwoman. "Everybody needs to know what everybody else is doing if we're going to move forward."Who's in charge?
Last month, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants - a professional association based in Durham - issued a "thought paper" on the 10-Year Plan's progress. It concluded the project lacked leadership, accountability and clear lines of responsibility.
"Our paper does indicate that a reorganization and a reset" are in order, AICPA Vice President Victor Velazquez said afterward.
Nelson's presentation was scheduled to last 10 minutes. With the ensuing discussion, it ran nearly an hour, and boiled down to the same basic question the accountants found: Who's in charge?
As Nelson described it, "Circles of Support" would be managed by the Genesis Home shelter, working under an ad hoc advisory board with a liaison to the 10-Year Plan committee. The idea had originated within the 10-Year Plan's organization, and a benefit last year raised about $10,000 for it. Seeing an urgent need, UMD, Genesis Home and the other agencies took the idea and ran with it on their own.
That was the trouble, according to Cole-McFadden.
"We have a committee here we don't know about, we have somebody out here doing something," she said. "We've got to get on the same page."'They subvert us'
Besides UMD and Genesis Home, Circles of Support organizers involved Lincoln Community Health Center, Housing for New Hope, the Durham County Department of Social Services, the Interfaith Hospitality Network and several churches, among others, said Assistant County Manager Drew Cummings.
"In my opinion, it has been vetted considerably," he said.
Ten-Year Plan staff were to be integral to the program, and it would use a how-to manual written by Plan staffer Lanea Foster.
"We're willing to go ahead," said Anita Oldham, director of the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition, the Plan's lead agency.
Still, a rivalry remains between the 10-Year Plan and those who directly serve the homeless.
"They see us as competition sometimes," Foster said. "They work against us and they subvert us."
Nelson said, "I'm not up here with any ulterior motives whatsoever."
Lloyd Schmeidler, the Plan's community education director, said, "Clearly, the relation between service providers and the 10-Year Plan needs some work.Hands off the money
Cole-McFadden said she was not prepared to make a decision on endorsing the agencies' plan or not. Urban Ministries' program director Peter Donlon said there are families who need support circles right now. Cummings suggested the agencies be left to go ahead without the 10-Year Plan's formal approval.
Cole-McFadden agreed, but stipulated that the agencies "have hands off on any financial blessings."
Nelson had said she wasn't asking for any funding. Genesis Home will provide the staff time to get the Circles of Support started.
Cole-McFadden, county commissioners' Chairman Michael Page, County Manager Mike Ruffin and City Manager Tom Bonfield have a meeting June 14 on the 10-Year Plan's future in light of the AICPA report, and how to use the $134,000 the county and city appropriate each year for the Plan's implementation. Some decisions are going to be made there, Cole-McFadden said.
Like for example, Who's in charge?
"Clearly," Page said, "we have a disagreement."