With overnight temperatures in the Triad expected to remain near freezing this week, Greensboro’s Doorway Project — pallet homes for the city’s unsheltered population — will keep its doors open. The dismantling has been postponed until next week.
In December, 30 of the dual occupancy pallet homes were installed in the Pomona Park baseball diamond. Two bathroom and shower facilities followed, and residents were given bus passes for obtaining food. On average 50 people experiencing homelessness wintered in the shelters that were purchased by the city and run by the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), a grassroots community-building organization that connects people to the resources they need.
Greensboro Assistant City Manager Nasha McCray says the pilot program would not have been possible without close collaboration between elected officials and the department of insurance.
"There really were no codes or ordinances around how to regulate these types of offerings, and so we’ve had a lot of good data and information which would not have been possible had it not been for their cooperation on the front end," says McCray. "We know that there are also a lot of other communities around the state that were essentially watching how we were able to navigate through that process."
McCray says the program was designed to run from December through the end of March, and adds she hopes the city can begin shifting away from temporary opportunities like this one and focus on permanent supportive housing. The pallet homes will be dismantled by March 30, in time for baseball season at the city park to begin. They were purchased by the city using COVID emergency funds that — if left on the table — would have expired in June.
IRC Executive Director Kristina Singleton says while finding solutions to the city’s lack of affordable housing is important, so is addressing the community’s immediate needs.
"It’s hard to look at long-term goals when folks are literally close to dying because of cold temperatures on the street," says Singleton. "So, for us, these bridge programs that come up, that we’re able to use funding for and to have even if they’re short term is better than nothing until we can get more final answers and more final solutions."
So far the Doorway Project has served 75 people with roughly 40% leaving the program. Singleton says more than half of them have obtained employment, moved back with family members, or turned down shelter beds.
The IRC plans to continue working to keep current and former Doorway Project residents on a path to permanent housing.