Community members and community leaders joined together Monday to break ground on a new residential facility for homeless men.
“On behalf of the foundation, I’m happy to formally present a $1 million grant for the construction of what will be the SECU Community House.”
That’s Chairperson McKinley Wooten of the State Employees Credit Union Foundation Board, as he presented a check that was big, both physically and monetarily, to the Inter-Faith Council on a beautiful Monday morning in Chapel Hill.
The occasion was an outdoor series of speeches followed by a groundbreaking at the site of the planned 16,500-square-foot, two-story residential facility for homeless men at 1315 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
The Inter-Faith Council at SECU Community House will be the first permanent location for the facility since IFC started looking for a site about 30 years ago.
There were a lot of speakers at Monday’s ceremony, including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt; NC Senator Valerie Foushee of District 23; and U.S. Rep. David Price of District 4.
There was also an unscheduled appearance by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.
“This is what we dream about when we think we’re going to be part of a community that is going to work together;” said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt. “When we think about what a university and a community can do together; how our students, how our faculty, how our staff, how our community can come together and do things that are greater then any one of us could ever do in our own.”
UNC donated the land where the new facility will be built, next to the United Church of Chapel Hill.
A capital campaign that began in December 2012 has pledges of $5.45 million toward a $5.76 million goal.
In a press release, IFC said the money will allow the construction of the building without incurring any debt.
Another speaker at the ceremony, Narvell Williams, is a past and current resident at IFC Community House.
About a year and a half ago, he left IFC to start a trucking career, until old knee injuries forced him out of work and eventually, out of his apartment.
“I was shocked and devastated,” he said. “But I had hope, because I knew that IFC would allow me to come back and try to get the medical treatment that I needed.”
The facility will provide medical and dental services to residents, as well as counseling and education. The dental facility is new, and was made possible by a grant from the Kenan Charitable Trust.
Senator Foushee talked about the value of a facilty like this to the community.
“As a public servant, I believe that we are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers,” he said. “And personally, as I remember certain situations in my own life, I am reminded that there but for the grace of God go I.”
Congressman Price was last, and he spoke about the federal Housing and Urban Development grant that served as seed money for the project.
“It’s entirely appropriate I think, for the federal government to have the kind of flexibility to support this kind of thing in our local communities,” said Price. “That sort of flexibility has been lost – temporarily, I hope — by virtue of some changes in the Congress. So we got this one in, just under the wire, I have to say.”
Executive Director John Dorward of the Inter-Faith Council told WCHL that construction will begin as soon as the building permit process is completed, which should take somewhere between four and six weeks.
“The Town of Chapel Hill was good enough to us all those years ago to let is use the old municipal building as a temporary quarters for the men’s Community House,” said Dorward. “And Community House has been looking for a home ever since. And it has really taken about 28 years to find a site that everyone could sort of agree on And the university was nice enough to step forward and say, ‘We’ve got a piece of property that you could use.’”
If all goes well, all those people will be back for a grand opening ceremony for the Inter-Faith Council at SECU Community House in the spring of 2015.
Danny Hooley, 97.9 FM, WCHL.