Staff photo by Joshua Curry
Katrina Knight, executive director of Good Shepherd, spoke to the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear at McAlister’s Deli on Monday, Feb. 25.
For more than 30 years the Good Shepherd Center has been constantly battling a lack of affordable housing in the tri-county area it serves.
Director Katrina Knight said during presentations, like the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear’s luncheon Monday, Feb. 24, she often ends up talking about affordable housing.
Residents are quick to shy away when it comes to discussing the development of affordable housing, she said.
“What are we willing to entertain and get behind to see our neighbors get housed?” Knight asked.
After a description of Good Shepherd programs, league members asked what types of identification the center accepts from guests and whether people with criminal histories are eligible to use services.
Knight said the center has accepted a wide range of documentation, including international driver’s licenses, and has also helped guests obtain forms of identification.
Compared to 10 years ago, the center must be more careful now about children accompanying adults into the center and making sure they are who they say they are.
“You just can’t take for granted who you have in front of you,” Knight said.
Criminal history restrictions have also tightened up throughout the years.
“I would rather they be with us than wandering the streets desperate,” Knight said. “… Instead of black and white rules, we tried to take a more situational approach.”
The tightening of rules comes from stricter regulations by contributing governmental agencies, which make up about 30 percent of the center’s budget. Good Shepherd Center received $14,000 from the 2013-14 New Hanover County budget, up from $8,100 in 2012-13.
“We do have to hew more closely to expectations around felonies and sex offenders,” Knight said. “We’re not able to take the wide gamut any longer.”
Other systems, like mental health hospitals and prisons, also play a role in the problem.
“Shelters are not supposed to be the discharge plan,” Knight said. “That’s why homelessness has ballooned and homeless services have mushroomed all over the country … because we are the receivers of all of these other broken systems.”
The official North Carolina Point-in-Time Count shows a snapshot of homelessness but is not finalized this year. Knight said the results will likely show an increase for the first time in three to four years.
“As a methodology, counting people on one night is very problematic,” Knight said.
During the recent winter storms or white flag nights, where the center warns of inclement weather with a white flag, there was an increase of about 20 people per night in the shelter.
Overall in 2013, the center provided 85,000 meals; sheltered men, women and families for 22,000 nights; distributed more than 500 tons of food; and transitioned 238 people into permanent housing. Even with federal funding cuts, the goal is to continue to house 150 people each year.
“We’re not there to warehouse people, and we’re not there as a safety net,” Knight said.