Is Fayetteville a sanctuary city for the homeless? It could happen. Actually, it is happening. Why? Because we live in a community where love, generosity and compassion far outpace vision and aggressive, competent and compelling  leadership at both the city and county levels. Together, they are not even visionary enough to see the advantages of leveraging this pure and unfiltered outreach of Christian generosity for the betterment of the Fayetteville community.

What a shame. A blind man could see why our community fails to mature socially, culturally and economically just by the way we communicate or fail to communicate among ourselves. Unfortunately, instead of seeking prosperity and solutions for our community, our city and county leadership are collectively more concerned with finding fault with each other and making excuses for their lackluster achievements. 

A perfect recent example is the case of Operation Inasmuch’s dispute with St. Luke’s AME Church on Hillsboro Street over building another 40-bed homeless shelter. A community shattered needlessly. Why? Basically, because  building another homeless shelter is viewed by Hillsboro Street residents as creating another enabling haven for the homeless rather than a solution to a problem perceived to already be of epidemic proportion. This comes even after homelessness  has been publicly  proclaimed one of the biggest concerns and highest priorities of the community.

Why? Because city and county elected officials cannot come together to address the actual problem and find feasible solutions and remedies. No, they can only sit back with their political heads in the sand while dozens upon dozens of homeless men, women, children, veterans, vagrants and exploiting panhandlers cripple local businesses, terrorize residents and tarnish Fayetteville’s reputation and our quality of life. A stroll down Maiden Lane demonstrates how our elected officials have allowed our downtown Headquarters Library to be transformed to a  quasi-homeless haven at the detriment of the community.

City and county elected officials must work together to find real solutions to problems our community faces like homelessness, crime, littering, economic development, utility expansion and, of course, the need for expanded park and recreation facilities.

The solution? First, residents need to get active and vote. Second, they need to stop voting for the same old political hacks who say nothing and do nothing but serve as partisan placeholders. Third, demand that our elected officials state what their vision is for the community and how they plan to improve our city or county. Fourth, start holding our political leaders responsible. Speak out. Demand the facts, details and explanations of why things are or are not being accomplished. Fifth: Demand transparency. To be sure, no city or county resident has ever benefited from anything that goes on behind closed doors.

The lack of harmony and leadership in dealing with the Hillsboro Street homeless shelter and our failure to come together with adequate solutions to our homeless problem indicates a serious lack of vision and leadership – not necessarily a good position for a community with aspirations of greatness! 

2016 will be and can be a big year for Fayetteville and Cumberland County. However, vision and leadership are imperative for that success. And, that will be up to us. 

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