Former Greensboro Motel Becomes Homeless Shelter


GREENSBORO, NC (AP) – The guest list at the former Regency Inn & Suites is growing.

Three new people have moved in recently.

“It’s not the Ritz but it’s clean, it’s safe and it’s hot,” said Mike Cooke, a homeless advocate whose nonprofit, Partnership Homes, purchases. distressed properties and gives them new life.

He just wants people to get off the streets.

This former motel, which Partnership Homes bought with financial assistance from the city and is undergoing renovations, serves as a winter emergency shelter program for the homeless for up to 100 people. The winter program provides shelter to the homeless during the colder months of the year and for over a decade it has mainly operated in redeveloped spaces in local churches.


No appointment is accepted. Guests must be referred through the Greensboro City Department or the Interactive Resource Center.

The Cooke Group, which has been renovating rooms since February so that the majority of them are ready by December, the traditional start of the program, has plans across the city.

With temperatures already below zero this month, it’s one of the hottest at the moment.

“FINANCIALLY CRUSHED”

Cooke had worked in real estate development.

“I lost a lot of money in 2008 and was kind of financially crushed,” Cooke said. “I just asked God to give me something meaningful to do. The doors began to open for me.

He then took on the role of Executive Director of Family Promise, a nonprofit emergency housing initiative that was largely run by volunteers and aimed at the lasting independence of those who participated in the nonprofit program. lucrative. At one time there was a waiting list of 60 families.

But the association was unable to get the dollars it needed to support its work.

Much of the support for the homeless, particularly through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, began to focus on securing permanent housing while surrounding them with services to overcome the barriers facing the homeless. -shelter are often faced.

Even agencies like Family Promise, which had good practices in place and could show how every penny was used, struggled to find the money to serve this population on their own.

When fully operational, the program was supported by 55 churches and groups who provided rotating locations, food, drivers and people to host families for a week at a time, often by converting spaces from the l Sunday school in mini-apartments.

During the day, the kids went to school and the parents went to work, looking for work or planning job searches with a case manager.

After encountering obstacles – such as some churches no longer being able to offer overnight accommodation due to building code requirements that had not been an issue before – the association decided to invest in a more permanent space and to forge a new relationship with its volunteers. .

Family Promise was to join the YWCA in a building that it completely renovated to provide accommodation space. The YWCA previously served as a winter emergency shelter for women.

But it didn’t work. While Family Promise uses many volunteers, for example, the YWCA – for insurance and safety reasons – requires trained employees on duty whenever there are people in the building. Cooke helped the YWCA apply for funding so that the agency could operate its own family shelter there.

Around the same time, Bob Kelley, who had run Habitat for Humanity and started Partnership Homes, was about to retire and Cooke became his successor.

By this time, Partnership Homes had become the organization of choice for recovering distressed properties.

“It has been gratifying not only to see the neighborhood properties improved and rehabilitated,” said Cooke, “but also to see the people we are helping. “

Five years ago, the association essentially stripped another run-down apartment complex to the floors of English Street.

With the help of federal and local grants and loans for affordable housing, the nonprofit took the single-story U-shaped brick complex of the 1960s – in slightly better condition than it was. that the town destroyed next door – and gave it a $ 1.1 million makeover.

“There are good people out there who try to do a lot of things, but honestly there isn’t a lot of money to do it,” Cooke said.

Called 2130 Everitt – more informally “the second chance house” – it is a 16-unit apartment complex geared towards the homeless. And since then, it’s almost complete.

Partnership Homes just completed another 31 unit apartment complex across from Wiley Elementary, with the first five tenants moving in late last month.

The existing complex had been abandoned and it took Partnership Homes two years to secure all the funds needed for the major renovations.

Applicants must be homeless or in danger of being homeless.

‘THE CALENDAR HAS WORKED’

It was in February that several people, including Myron Wilkins of the Greensboro City Department, approached Cooke, who was working on the hotel to turn it into supportive housing for the homeless.

Over the years, the City of Greensboro, the Greensboro City Department and the Interactive Resource Center have worked independently and together on ways to provide housing for the homeless. They often had similar ideas.

With the lifting of stay-at-home orders and the return of operating hotels to a certain level of activity, they should think of something else for the winter emergency program.

They knew the program was needed more than ever, Wilkins said.

The winter emergency program began in 2008 in response to the ongoing recession and the need for additional beds.

The shelters, mostly housed in churches, accommodated a total of around 80 to 100 people. Participants were assigned to winter shelters through a selection process and allowed to stay for the four-month program or until they found a place to go.

As part of the program, residents work with a social worker and people from various agencies to create a plan for finding employment and / or housing. Volunteers provide everything from food and bedding to encouragement.

Statistics from the program show that many of the people who stay in shelters find housing when temporary shelters close.

When COVID-19 hit, the program moved to a hotel, with the Greensboro City Department and Interactive Resource Center footing the bill.

IRC officials also questioned the use of the Partnership Homes hotel.

“The timing worked wonderfully,” said Kristina Singleton, executive director of IRC.

IRC, the lead agency, obtained a grant from the city to pay for the rooms, which are designed as mini-apartments. The Greensboro City Department is paying for the food. Both agencies have social workers on site. It has 24-hour security and a common set of rules, regardless of which agency referred them.

Two property managers manage day-to-day operations, with Cooke overseeing them as well.

“I’m hopeful that the momentum can continue,” said Wilkins. “It would be great to see over the course of several years that the Regency becomes the model for many projects around our city. “


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