NIMBY in North Carolina: A Church Objects to Siting of Homeless Shelter

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December 8, 2015; WRAL-TV (Raleigh, NC)

In any community, it is critical to ensure that the siting of a facility is done with as much sensitivity to the community as possible. In this particular case, WRAL-TV, serving the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, reports that an AME church serving the local African American community in Fayetteville is protesting the siting of a homeless shelter in a lot adjacent to their church. In essence, the implication is that the facility has been “dumped” there.

The city council recently voted to allow Operation Inasmuch, which has been providing meals for hundreds of homeless people over the past eight years, to build a 40-bed overnight shelter next to a primarily African-American church.

The pastor said the nonprofit had garnered the support of two predominantly white churches in downtown Fayetteville, which were concerned about homeless people on their properties, before getting the city council to approve a building in the predominantly black church’s majority minority neighborhood.

“They wanted them out of there, and so, therefore, [they] feel that it’s all right that [they] bring them to our neighborhood,” he said. St. Luke AME Church’s pastor called the vote “for the shelter a vote against his congregation.” He told the TV station that a tent city nearby, along with a growing homeless population in the neighborhood has forced the church to hire off-duty police officers.

The church itself says it provides thousands of meals to the sick, shut-ins, senior citizens and children, prompting the nonprofit’s leadership to say that the “organization and the church should be on the same side of helping those in need.”

“They didn’t lose, we didn’t win. Who won was the homeless,” Operation Inasmuch’s director told WRAL, pointing out that the vacant lot where the shelter will go has been the scene of drug dealing and prostitution.

Operation Inasmuch insisted that the shelter would be safe. St. Luke’s pastor is considering legal action to stop the shelter from opening—and if that fails, a fence.—Larry Kaplan