Rift between Hyde and Kennedy goes public
UPDATE: After this article was published, Michelle Kennedy has made the following the statement: “Marcus Hyde was never an IRC employee. He was an AmeriCorps member and we were his site placement. He also didn’t quit — he was terminated from AmeriCorps for failure to follow program guidelines.”
A Friday morning post on the Homeless Union of Greensboro’s Facebook page alleged that organization has been “evicted” from the Interactive Resource Center, where it was founded a year and a half ago, and that “the eviction notice gives us until Aug. 1 to leave, with no real method for appealing that decision.”
The lengthy post, the entirety of which can be read on Facebook, including the following allegation:
“We are especially concerned with threats to issue trespassing citations to people who come on the property after hours, and the fact that guests of the IRC don’t have any real means to address grievances or concerns, give feedback or direction to the IRC.”
Michelle Kennedy, executive director of the IRC and At-large Representative to the Greensboro City Council, responded to the post with a Facebook comment protesting what Kennedy called “gatekeeping” and “manipulating the actual words spoken by people experiencing homelessness.”
Kennedy’s comment also stated that “people experiencing homelessness are interested in a homeless union that they actually lead themselves and have reached out to the IRC asking if meeting space might be available to them because so much of the time spent with HUG [the Homeless Union of Greensboro] is taken up by the notions and ideas of the self-appointed housed mouthpieces and their planned agendas.”
These remarks appeared to refer to Homeless Union of Greensboro organizer and co-founder Marcus Hyde, who has denounced what he has called Kennedy’s “failure to stand up for someone she knew that got killed by the police.”
Hyde was referring to the death of Marcus Deon Smith, whom Kennedy spoke fondly of in a December statement to YES! Weekly. The Homeless Union of Greensboro’s Facebook post also stated: “concern that our eviction is connected to our efforts to get Justice for Marcus Deon Smith.”
Hyde, who helped the Smith family get legal representation and has been a strong proponent of their suit, resigned from the IRC late last year, and this year has been critical of Kennedy when speaking from the floor during town hall meetings, particularly following the city council’s decision to table its previously announced independent review of the Greensboro Police Department’s fatal hogtying of Marcus Deon Smith, which occurred after Smith’s family announced they were suing the city.
Just before noon, this writer reached out to both Smith and Kennedy about the Facebook post and Kennedy’s comment on it.
“The IRC has a very top-down power structure, so it was a conflict of interest for me to work there and encourage homeless people to speak up about issues that affect them,” wrote Hyde when asked about his resignation from the organization. “I should have quit earlier.”
When asked about his dispute with Kennedy, Smith replied, “I just think she doesn’t like to be criticized” and accused Kennedy of “trying to discredit and silence her critics.”
Kennedy had equally strong statements.
Addressing what she called his “accusation that the IRC is citing people for trespassing, or that we don’t have for people to air their grievances,” Kennedy exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Mr. Hyde’s claims are completely unwarranted and false.”
“What other executive director has their personal cell phone on their business cards, and has a standing open-door policy with every person that they serve? I will absolutely ask somebody to leave the property if there’s a conflict with another person, but what that means at the IRC is that you have to leave for that day, and can come back tomorrow morning. We never ban people permanently or tell people that they can’t ever come back. But if there’s a safety issue, I’ll absolutely ask somebody to leave, but that’s not citing somebody for trespassing.”
“It’s not the Homeless Union there’s an issue with,” she said. “We’ve had good relationships with the group in the past, and unfortunately, we’ve had to cut down on meetings after hours at our campus, due to staffing and security issues. We always want to be welcoming to others in our community, but resources can only go so far. And we wish them the best of luck.”
She said that, on July 16, she had sent an email to the Homeless Union stating that the IRC no longer had the resources to provide that organization after-hours staff.
“Every year we get requests from a number of groups to have meetings, so we reevaluate who we have given space to and how long have we given it, how does that impact our staffing, etc. and we reset the calendar ever July,” Kennedy said. “We sent the email saying this is what’s happening beginning Aug. 1. Marcus responded and asked if something was wrong. I responded with what I just told you and thought that was the end of it until he made this post today. I probably should not have commented on Facebook, but my surprise at his outrageous and unwarranted post got the better of me.”