CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County are working to address safety on Franklin Street.
In a joint letter released Wednesday, Mayor Pam Hemminger and Police Chief Chris Blue said they received a number of concerns from residents regarding issues on Franklin Street.
“Recently, community members have raised concerns on social media and local media outlets about safety on Franklin Street and the behavior of some of our community members who are experiencing homelessness,” the letter said. “We want to share with you the work we are doing and the tools at our disposal. We also recognize the need for more resources.”
To address concerns, Chapel Hill and Orange County deployed a Street Outreach and Harm Reduction and Deflection Program (SOHRAD) in 2020 and talked to CBS 17 about it on Thursday.
Tiffany Hall is the program’s clinical coordinator.
Much of her job is providing resources for those experiencing homelessness. Since the program’s installation in 2020, they’ve helped nearly 300 people.
“We help provide them with housing resources, any kind of resources that they may need (from) mental health, substance abuse and we also helped deflect from any kind of criminal activity or police activity that may not be heightened enough to where they need to be taken to jail or the police need to be called,” Hall said.
Additionally, McKayla Hensley works at the Blue Horn Lounge off Franklin Street.
Her main concern is safety.
She said she and other employees have had to call police dozens of times regarding incidents on Franklin Street.
“I will walk around the street and get threatened,” Hensley said. “It would be different if it was just asking for money or something, but as soon as I said I don’t have money or just don’t say anything at all I get threatened.”
She said while SOHRAD is a great resource for people who use it, she doesn’t think the issues she’s experienced have much to do with homelessness.
“It’s a crime issue not a homelessness issue on the street,” Hensley said. “The people that we deal with a lot of the time (ask) ‘do you have a place to go to’, as we’ve heard from street outreach, and they just don’t. They hang out on the street and harass people, threaten us daily.”
In the last six months, the Chapel Hill Police Department said it has received 10 calls for service related to harassment in the downtown area of Franklin Street.
Hensley said she wants to see more law enforcement patrolling the area.
The Town of Chapel Hill also said the police department has stepped up its presence downtown and is working with the UNC and Downtown Partnership to create a downtown ambassador’s program. It’s also working on a new crisis facility that would provide access to resources for people experiencing mental health crises.