For nearly a decade, Casey McCall has worked with Hickory’s homeless population as director of shelter services for The Salvation Army.
Now, he’ll be continuing that work in a newly-created position with the Hickory Police Department.
McCall began work this week as the department’s community navigator. In his new role, he will help homeless people connect with resources so they can live independently.
McCall discussed what he’ll be doing on his new job, what he’s learned from his previous experiences with the homeless population and how serious the problem of homelessness is in Hickory.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On what his new job entails:
It’s more or less in-depth case management with the homeless folks in our community, trying to get them in services in our community.
It’s more hands-on than what we’ve probably seen in the past just because of the lack of boots on the ground so to speak.
We’re more or less doing –- whatever is keeping them from being self-sufficient -- we’re trying to overcome those barriers and get them off the street and self-sufficient.
On what he’s learned from his time working with the homeless previously:
I’ve learned that in working with the homeless, dignity will get you a lot farther. Treating our homeless community with dignity and respect, you will definitely reap better rewards because in so many cases they have been treated so undignified that that’s what they’ve gotten used to.
So when you can approach them with a little dignity -- and I think the officers here at the police department would agree with me -- that you … sometimes get better results.
Every client we work with is going to be different. What might be a stumbling block for me might not be even in your radar. You may have a totally different issue than I do.
Sometimes its alcoholism, sometimes its drug abuse, sometimes its mental health and sometimes it’s all of the above and getting them in the right services to combat that.
On the severity of homelessness in Hickory:
It’s a concern. It’s something that we as a community need to be aware of and work on together.
I would not call this an emergency or anything like that and we have some great successes in our community.
I think it’s definitely manageable and homelessness is not something that you’re going to cure or get rid of, but it is something that we as a community can help to minimize -- that time from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
If we all come together, work together and approach it as a community problem -- not a nonprofit problem, not a police department problem. It’s a community problem.
On the available resources for helping the homeless:
The services are there but the finances might not always be there. Funding is always limited and it goes quickly.
So if your program, its budget year were to start in January sometimes this line item of funds may be gone by March. So then the program is there but the finances aren’t there sometimes.
We have a housing shortage in our community where there is not enough affordable housing for the number of folks that we have.
Transportation has been a problem but we have some great programs starting up, like the … HOPE Program with Austin Pearce over at the soup kitchen is making some major strides and partnerships with Greenway and things like that.