Originally Posted on Fayetteville Observer

Homelessness and economic development are among Cumberland County’s top issues to address in the coming months.

At a county strategic planning retreat Tuesday, county employees brainstormed ways to provide resources to the homeless, including the creation of a day center, and how to increase economic activity in the area.

 A survey of county department heads found homelessness was the highest rated priority. The results also included aging infrastructure and capital improvements, employee health and intergovernmental relations.

Homelessness has had the attention of elected leaders. Earlier this year, the Fayetteville City Council identified homelessness as its top priority.

A stabbing between two homeless men inside the Cumberland County Public Library in March highlighted the need for more resources, some county employees said Tuesday.

Sue Byrd, executive director at Operation Inasmuch, and Jody Risacher, the Cumberland County library director, have said the area needs a day center where homeless can find resources for living and employment opportunities.

Connections of Cumberland County, a nonprofit that provides services to homeless women, has a day center open to women two days a week, but leaders have advocated for a day center open to all homeless.

County department heads split into small groups to discuss ways to tackle each of the issues.

Kenneth Edge, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, said the county needs to assess the resources available for the homeless.

“If somebody has a question about homelessness, we need to be able to have a resource that we can refer them to – it may be a community resource, it may be a governmental resource,” Edge said. ” Right now, people don’t know that. They don’t even know where everything is going on in the community.

“It’s a matter of educating people in the community about services that are available. There are homeless people that are served now, but not served in some (other) cases so we need to make everybody aware of what is available.”

Staff writer Nathan Hardin can be reached at hardinn@fayobserver.com or 486-3509.