For more than two decades, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service was doing the best it could to provide assistance to the community’s homeless in a building not suited for its needs.
Now, after the official opening of SECU Community House, the organization has a place where it can offer the programs its leaders have always envisioned.
“The most enchanting thing about this space is its potential for saying ‘yes,’” said Stephani Kilpatrick, residential services director of the Inter-Faith Council. “We can say ‘Yes, we are providing a space that honors the dignity of our clients.’”
Chancellor Carol L. Folt joined other community and national leaders Sept. 21 to cut the ribbon of the Council’s new Community House, which will provide housing and supportive services for homeless men in a transitional housing program.
“Today I feel immense pride in being a part of this wonderful community,” Folt said. “A university like Carolina is only as strong as its relationships with the community. It is together that we’ll thrive. And it’s together that we make community.”
In 2008, the University of North Carolina helped the center become a reality by providing 1.6 acres of land on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard adjacent to United Church of Chapel Hill for the two-story, 16,500 square-foot building.
“We could not have done it without the University of North Carolina,” said Michael Reinke, Inter-Faith Council executive director. “This land was donated — or leased — to the Town of Chapel Hill by UNC. We are now a sublease from Chapel Hill. They’ve allowed us to use the land for 60 years, and the rent is $1 a year for the use of the land. We could not be happier.”
Sixteen months after breaking ground for the Community House, the $5.76 million facility will replace the Inter-Faith Council’s homeless shelter on Rosemary Street. In addition to providing job coaching to help homeless men, the center will feature on-site medical, dental and mental health services.
The center is capable of providing housing and services for 52 homeless men and offering 17 more beds as an emergency overnight shelter.
Having gone through the Inter-Faith Council’s program at the former center, Anthony Sharp knows firsthand how the new facility will provide a strong resource for the community.
“I’m not the first success story of the IFC shelter,” he said. “There have been many before me, and there will be many after me. I think that this is a great program to help people get back on their feet.”