Growing homeless population in downtown park sparks controversy

The growing homeless population in Center City Park has drawn a lot of attention this week.

On Monday, Aug. 8, Downtown Greensboro Inc. President and District 3 City Council Member Zack Matheny emailed city and county officials and downtown business representatives to tour the park. of Center City with him to discuss solutions to the problems created by the growing homeless population in the park.

In the email, after noting some of Center City Park’s issues, Matheny said, “I invite you to this email, and all COC members [Continuum of Care] walk with me in the park, let’s try to help people get the help they need and I can understand why organizations are unable to help them.

On Wednesday, August 10, a group made up of city and county officials as well as representatives of downtown business owners did just that – they walked through the park and discussed possible solutions to the growing problem that is became Center City Park.

City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba didn’t like it and responded to Matheny’s email on Friday, August 12, saying in part, “First, there is already a meeting between the city and the county to discuss strategies to address this issue. I am very concerned that multiple meetings involving different stakeholders will lead to multiple discussions in which we are not integrated and will result in different strategies.

“Secondly, this is a city/county-wide problem that we should be discussing with the goal of solving it holistically – solving it in our downtown would only create the same problem in other parts of the city.”

Matheny replied that he had inquired about city/county meetings on the matter and was never informed of the meetings. He said Wednesday’s meeting in the park that included the business community as well as city and county officials was a success.

Richardson Corporation Vice President Mark Shumaker, who participated in Wednesday’s meeting, also responded, saying, “From a business owner’s perspective, I’d like to emphasize that something has to happen ( rather than just talking). We recently had an employee of a tenant (Arch MI) who a homeless peeed on from head to toe (she was sitting on a bench reading a book). Nothing was done and the police turned their backs. We work hard to promote the downtown core and build economic vitality. The growing feedback we are hearing from tenants and prospects implicates security concerns. »

Vaughan Ramsey of the law firm Tuggle Duggins, who also took part in the march, said: “I have compassion for the homeless, but the current situation in the parks is unsustainable and visible measures immediate must be taken. If left unchecked, downtown will slowly wither away as people slowly vote with their feet.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who did not participate in the march, responded with a list of ongoing actions, including: putting up 10 signs indicating that unattended items will be removed from the park, the city ​​reviewing ordinances, park renovations that will include upgraded sprinklers. , artistic fences, extra bench arms to prohibit poses, and artwork to fill the spaces between the planters.

She said the city is also negotiating land outside of downtown as a nonprofit outreach site, such as providing meals.

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