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The Daily Tar Heel

Homesick blues

New shelter needs to be built; crime data misleading

Recently released data on the arrests of homeless people should not derail efforts to build a new homeless shelter.

The Chapel Hill Police Department released data detailing 315 offenses committed by the town’s homeless population so far this year.

The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service is trying to move its homeless shelter from its current location on West Rosemary Street and build a new building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Many residents near the proposed site oppose the shelter’s relocation to their neighborhood. One of the reasons behind their opposition is a concern about a potential increase of crime with the shelter’s move.

But these 315 offenses need to be taken in context.

First, there are only 230 unique cases listed in the police data, meaning that many of the offenses listed were the result of several citations being issued at the same time.

Second, out of 94 offenders listed in the police data, only 31 actually list the homeless shelter’s address as their address. The other 63 list “streets of Chapel Hill” as their addresses.

Third, Chris Moran, executive director of IFC, has said several times that many of the people who list the homeless shelter as their address in fact have never stayed at the homeless shelter.

The shelter’s address is well-known, and we shouldn’t blame an entire community of men just because some people misuse the shelter’s address.

Finally, Chapel Hill police spend most of their time responding to incidents that aren’t committed by homeless people. Police responded to 772 incidents in October alone. That’s more than twice the amount of incidents committed by homeless people so far this year.

So let’s not allow stigmas and misconceptions to block the IFC’s work.

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