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Wake Develops Plan to Shelter the Homeless

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RALEIGH — After months of arguments and stalemates, Wake County commissioners have finally agreed on how to shelter the homeless in Raleigh. The decision is a relief for the approximately 2,000 people here who have no place to call home.

Anthony Edwards has been on the streets in Raleigh for a month now. He says for people like himself, a homeless shelter is a safe haven.

"A lot of people that come down here are good people," Edwards says. "They don't have jobs every day. Some of them ain't able to work."

David Myers says he is homeless because he is a substance abuser, but the current shelter offers no counseling.

"Right now you have no programs, you have very little consequences. More or less people can pretty much do what they want, and it's just a place to lay your head," Myers says.

After several years of debate, the Wake County commissioners have approved a multi-million dollar plan to renovate the shelter and add social service programs.

"These services will give men a chance to help themselves, a chance they really haven't had before," says Jim Galloway, an advocate for the homeless.

The catch is that the county wants the city to donate the property and kick in $2.1 million dollars. The Raleigh City Council still must approve the plan, and Mayor Tom Fetzer is not sold on the price tag.

"I think they are proposing to spend a lot more money than they need to in terms of upfitting the building. The service components definitely need to be there, but I'm not sure we need to spend $5.2 million."

Commissioner Vernon Malone stands by the plan. "I do believe that it's a plan that we can make work, and I don't believe we need to spend any more time debating the issue."

The Raleigh City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan Wednesday afternoon. If it is approved, Wake County would take over the operation of the shelter in July. The renovations would be completed by fall 2001.