Local News

Durham faces funding choice: Affordable housing or homeless shelters

Posted December 18, 2017 6:52 p.m. EST

— Advocates for the homeless are concerned that an effort to create more affordable housing in Durham may help some low-income families but end up hurting services for the homeless.

Residents and leaders at Urban Ministries of Durham are worried that the city's plan – to reallocate a portion of money currently spent on shelters to develop more affordable housing – will see much-needed programs cut.

Crystal Smith is one of those residents. She and her five boys have been living at Urban Ministries' Families Moving Forward shelter for the past three months.

"It's a depressing time for me because of the situation," she said. "I wish that we were in our own place."

Smith says she fell on hard times after losing her mom and the father of her two oldest boys last year.

Hers is one of 20 families living at the Families Moving Forward shelter.

"This organization has helped not only myself but many other families along the way," Smith said.

Ryan Fehrman, director of the shelter, is worried the plan could cost him $80,000.

Last week, the Durham Department of Community Development said it would prioritize funding for "rapid rehousing," or finding homes for the homeless, over community development grants of the type that support Urban Ministries.

Fehrman said he was told the city wouldn't accept any applications for grants outside those priorities.

"That is basically almost 10 percent of our budget, so we either need to raise it from somewhere else or cut services for homeless people, and we don't want to cut services," he said.