Beaufort Co. Commissioner vote to fund shelter amidst controversy

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Beaufort County Commissioners voted 6-1 to give the Zion Homeless Shelter $12,500 during their Monday meeting. Without that money, shelter officials said they would have likely closed within weeks.

Commissioners said the vote really came down to being compassionate.

“We just really don’t want somebody freezing to death out on a park bench in the December and January,” said Commissioner Robert Belcher, who made the motion to give the shelter money.

Jonathan Gaskins, the shelter’s manager, said decreased state and local funding, along with fewer donations, have left them in a difficult situation. Currently, they are the only shelter serving the homeless all year in the county.

“They’re not going away. They’re here,” Gaskins said. “Somebody has to take care of them. Somebody has to step forward and take a leadership role.”

However, some commissioners don’t feel as if that someone should be them. Hood Richardson voiced strong opposition to the motion.

“I’m not one of these socialists that believes in solving these problems with money, so I’m going to have a problem voting for this,” he said.

Richardson asked shelter officials how many homeless people who stay there are using drugs and alcohol. He said to give the shelter money to support those people would be a waste. Richardson said they chose that lifestyle, and they can choose to change it.

However, Commissioner Ed Booth said it isn’t that easy.

“It’s not just something that people just do because they want to do it,” he said.

Booth spoke from personal experience and said those who suffer from alcoholism shouldn’t be looked down upon because it is an illness.

Shelter officials said the money the commissioners allotted should keep them up and running for the rest of the year. They plan to come back to commissioners during the budget discussions in the Spring to request additional funds.

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