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Haywood Homelessness Task Force Issues Report

Cory Vaillancourt
Waynesville Task Force on Homelessness Chair Amy Murphy-Nugen (left) presents a draft report on July 8.

Homelessness was the key issue in the most recent municipal elections in Haywood County. In late 2019, newly-elected leaders in the Town of Waynesville created a task force to gather information.  It’s now issued recommendations, which will likely generate new controversy.

It took almost 18 months for the task force to produce its 140-page report that contains some proposed steps forward.

Mandy Haithcox, executive director of the Haywood Pathways Center, explains.

“Well, it’s a draft, first of all, but I hope the public will appreciate all the hard work that we’ve done and that it does take into account how we help those who need homes as well as the community at large,” Haithcox said.

Contained in the report are options for expanding the current shelter ecosystem – a suggestion that’s generated lots of negative feedback in the past, from people who don’t want them in their neighborhoods. Also recommended is the hiring of three outreach coordinators to interface with people experiencing homelessness. That recommendation seems to have good traction according to Waynesville Alderman, Anthony Sutton.

“I think it’s something we’ll have to consider with great thought, and with coordination with the county,” said Sutton. “I don’t think the problem is entirely Waynesville’s issue, so I think it’s going to take a community to get those positions.”

Haywood County Commission Chairman Kevin Ensley said he would support finding ways to fund the positions.

“We’re looking at Dogwood Trust to do some positions maybe in the jail, and I’m also thinking that maybe we can leverage them to help us a little bit,” Ensley said. “I’m even thinking that maybe the county could chip in a little bit along with the town and with some of the non-profits.”

Community feedback is next, as the task force will hold a session at the Waynesville Recreation Center on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 5.