Advocates ask Fayetteville leaders for $1 million toward program for homeless

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Advocates for the homeless in Cumberland County are trying to get more funding for a program they say helps stop chronic homelessness.

They’re asking city and county leaders for a total of $1 million to help grow Homeless First.

John Whittington is one of the people helped by the Housing First initiative. He evacuated to Fayetteville after Hurricane Florence. He was jobless and homeless. Since then, he said he now has stable housing and works with Hope 4 NC, which is a group that helps hurricane victims.

“This is my way of giving back to help out what’s been given to me,” Whittington said. “They helped me get back on my feet, get to a house, got me a job.”

“I think John’s story is so wonderful because it links how a disaster affects those who are homeless,” added Laressa Witt with Continuum of Care on homelessness.

Witt is one of the advocates who helped John and is pushing to grow the Homeless First initiative in Fayetteville.

“You take them from being homeless and then you immediately get them into a home,” Witt said.

The program uses private and public housing and helps pay rent and deposits for people who are chronically homeless.

“It is a taxpayer-friendly program because it’s cheaper to house them than it is to leave them on the streets and using all the public systems,” Witt said.

After people are housed, case managers help them find jobs and resources for any mental health or addiction issues they may have.

“If I’m always worried about where I’m going to sleep or where I’m going to eat, where I’m going to store my belongings, I am not emotionally ready to deal with the next issue that I have or barriers that I have in my life,” Witt said.

Witt said the program has an 85 percent success rate nationwide and has already proven successful with local veterans.

“Just give them a fair chance instead of pushing them to the side,” Whittington said.

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