Wake housing director takes global stage to promote new initiative

Wake County's Director of Affordable Housing and Community Revitalization, Lorena McDowell, stood in the world spotlight today at the 2023 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City to unveil the county’s groundbreaking partnership with Step Up, an organization dedicated to addressing mental health challenges and chronic homelessness.

Step Up is expanding into North Carolina for the first time. The organization will collaborate with Wake County and four municipalities across the state to provide stable housing and supportive services for homeless people battling behavioral health issues. Step Up chose McDowell to embody the initiative on stage at CGI because of her dedication to establishing this partnership.

"I was deeply honored to represent Wake County today alongside so many leaders who are working to do good in their communities,” said McDowell. “This recognition reflects the incredible progress we're making to provide affordable housing to those in need. By partnering with Step Up, we can expand our efforts even further and help our hardest to house residents find safe places to live."

After learning about Step Up’s model, McDowell and her team began working to bring it to Wake County. She and County leaders traveled to California earlier this year to see the concept in person and meet with Step Up’s leaders. This visit helped solidify Wake’s partnership with Step Up and expand the organization’s national reach. Step Up currently has a goal of creating 500 affordable housing units within the next two years in Raleigh, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem and Asheville.

Step Up works with public and private partners to purchase older motels and convert them into studio apartments for those in need of permanent supportive housing. Wake County and local nonprofits will provide vouchers to subsidize rents and Step Up will provide intensive case management services including, but not limited to, psychiatrists for medication care and transportation.

Step Up projects these apartments will be completed in a third of the time and cost compared to traditional homeless housing development. The target completion date is Sept. 1, 2025.

“I’m incredibly proud to see Director McDowell sharing the stage at CGI with world leaders and global change markers,” said Shinica Thomas, Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “Wake County is taking bold steps towards lasting change, and our involvement in this prestigious event reflects our determination to be a catalyst and a role model for progress worldwide."

CGI brings together global leaders and influential figures committed to addressing the world's most pressing challenges. Among the notable participants for CGI 2023 are His Holiness Pope Francis; Janet L. Yellen, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and many others.

Press Release