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5 Things to Know: County Revamps Approach to Homelessness

...and four more stories from June 5-11, 2022

County volunteers bring resources to residents struggling with homelessness on Charlotte’s streets. (Photo by Peter Safir)

County Announces New Approach to Fighting Homelessness

Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy Initiative (CMHHS) announced Thursday the creation of an “Enduring Structure” that will direct the way elected leaders and local organizations work together to fight against homelessness, with United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC) serving as the local nonprofit lead agency.

In January, CMHHS released the strategic framework for A Home for All: Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Strategy to End and Prevent Homelessness. Now, just six months later, it appears the county has scrapped that 40-page collaborative plan to move toward a structure headed by UWCC. 

According to a CMHHS blog post, feedback from elected officials and other community members led them to transition away from the infrastructure used to develop the A Home for All Strategic Framework that was announced in January and move toward a more formal public-private effort led by Mecklenburg County.

“Through this structure, Mecklenburg County will contract with UWCC, an entity equipped to carry out the implementation phase activities,” the post reads. “This enables Mecklenburg County to serve in a leadership capacity while also leveraging other expertise and experience in the community.” 

The organizational chart of the new Enduring Structure.

The Enduring Structure will be supported by the Mecklenburg County Manager’s Office and Community Support Services through a contract with UWCC, providing oversight, a program of work, staff and financial support, according to a release from Charlotte Center City Partners on Thursday. 

The Enduring Structure also includes two committees to support the work. The Advisory Committee will be comprised primarily of private sector representatives. The Technical Committee, currently chaired by Stacy Lowry, director of Mecklenburg County’s Community Support Services, will be comprised primarily of technical experts and practitioners from public and private sectors. The voices of those with lived experience of homelessness will be included on both, according to the release. 

Calls and texts to multiple on-the-ground advocates working with our homeless neighbors led to shrugs and/or confusion as to what exactly will change under the new structure. 

Sheriff’s Office Reaches Agreement with Gun Groups

Sheriff Garry McFadden on Friday announced that a lawsuit brought against his department in August 2021 has been settled for a whopping $7 ($1 per plaintiff) and an agreement reached regarding how pistol-purchase and concealed-handgun permits are processed. 

The lawsuit, filed by a group of gun owners and guns’ rights organizations, claimed that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) consistently failed to meet statutory deadlines for gun permits, specifically that the department wasn’t informing gun owners whether it would approve or deny a pistol-purchase permit within 14 days of receiving an application, as mandated by law.

Garry McFadden
Sheriff Garry McFadden speaks to reporters at a press conference in February. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

At the time, MCSO admitted that it was working on a five-month backlog due to labor shortages and other COVID-related delays. In May, a judge issued an injunction ordering that MCSO must begin providing fingerprint services to all applicants for concealed-handgun permits within five days of receiving an application.

By that time, McFadden claimed the department had already caught up and was meeting the 14-day deadline. However, in response to the injunction, his department canceled 1,300 pending appointments for fingerprint services and announced a new first-come, first-serve policy to allow his staff to meet the judge’s order. 

Wednesday’s settlement ruling stated that the MCSO must follow state law as it stands: granting or denying all pistol-purchase permits within 14 days of receiving an application and all concealed-handgun permits by 45 days. 

“The perfect storm of a global pandemic and a staffing crisis, combined with an unprecedented number of permit applications, presented a significant challenge for our office,” McFadden wrote in a statement following the settlement. “I regret that as a result, for a period of time, we were unable to process handgun permits as efficiently as any of us would have liked … We have been back in compliance with all statutory timeframes since March of this year, and I am confident that we will remain so.”

WellPath Center Opens in Derita

Wellpath Community Care Center (WCC), a community-based clinic that offers evidence-based medications for opioid-use disorder (MOUD) and substance-use disorder programs, announced this week that it has opened its new north Charlotte location. 

Queen City Nerve was there in October when they broke ground on the clinic, which will offer services including medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for individuals struggling with opioids as well as other substances including alcohol, methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, hallucinogens, and tobacco. 

According to the Wellpath website, MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications, including Suboxone, Vivitrol, and, in some locations, Methadone, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

social district
[From right]: Mecklenburg County Commissioner Leigh Altman, Wellpath Community Care President Neil Schamban, Sheriff Garry McFadden, and City Council representative Malcolm Graham attend a “groundbreaking” at a new Wellpath Community Care Center in Derita in October 2021. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)
When asked how this center’s programs will differ from usual treatment centers that deal in opioid addiction, Wellpath Vice President Melissa Bishop told Queen City Nerve, “It’s a comprehensive approach to substance abuse treatment. We’ll be providing services not only for substance use but also co-occurring services for people struggling with anxiety or depression, which will help in their engagement and treatment and stability. It’s a one-stop shop rather than having to make them go to multiple providers.” 

Wellpath opened its first North Carolina Community Care Center in Winston-Salem in April and already partners with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to run its behavioral health units inside the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.

You can learn more about the new clinic, which is located at 2422 W. Sugar Creek Road and operates 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at their website or by calling 980-346-5660. 

Center for Digital Equity Announces National Partnership

The Center for Digital Equity (CDE) at Queens University of Charlotte, formerly known as Digital Charlotte, announced on Friday that it has partnered with national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to further the organization’s goal of helping Mecklenburg County residents sign up for affordable home broadband internet service, purchase affordable technology, and get help with basic device and connectivity issues via the CDE’s Digital Navigator program.

EducationSuperHighway works with cities, states, community partners, and other organizations to connect unconnected households to high-speed internet through the adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and solutions for providing multi-dwelling units with managed Wi-Fi.

The ACP is a new social benefit program created by the bipartisan Infrastructure Law that provides all income-eligible families up to $30 in monthly discounts on their internet for at least the next five years.

Two-thirds of America’s unconnected households are still offline because they cannot afford an available internet connection. The broadband affordability gap disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx Americans and those with less than a high school education.

As an EducationSuperHighway community partner, CDE will help implement effective initiatives to bridge the gap, starting in Mecklenburg County, according to a Friday press release. 

“The CDE and EducationSuperHighway will work together to bridge the digital divide in Mecklenburg County by spreading awareness of the ACP and helping households enroll in the ACP and get connected and use the internet,” the release read. “The programs will be delivered in close collaboration with the communities and residents the CDE is serving, with a particular focus on Charlotte’s six Corridors of Opportunity.” 

Two Teens Arrested in Robbery Turned Murder

A man was killed in west Charlotte early on Thursday morning, becoming the 45th murder victim in the city this year. Shortly after 1:30 a.m., police responded to a shooting call on Tuckaseegee Road near Sheets Circle and found 33-year-old Addison Lipscomb suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Medic pronounced Lipscomb dead at the scene.

Meanwhile, two teens were arrested for the June 4 murder of 17-year-old Andy Hernandez in the Boulevard Homes area off West Boulevard. On Tuesday, police arrested a 15-year-old juvenile and charged them for the murder of Hernandez. Then on Wednesday, police went to Harding University High School where they arrested and charged an 18-year-old student with murder. Both suspects were also charged with attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

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