#SpotlightOnCLT: Community Link and Homeless to Housing | SHARE Charlotte

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#SpotlightOnCLT: Community Link and Homeless to Housing

Written by Grace Kennedy    on May 13, 2019    in

Lynda Watson was facing homelessness when Community Link's Homeless to Housing program helped her find a safe, comfortable apartment she could afford long-term. Now Lynda is the first person to greet people when they walk into the Community Link office.

When her position at a large bank was eliminated, Lynda ended up losing her home to foreclosure. "I lost my house, my car, my savings, and went a whole year without a job," she remembers. "I ended up having to put all my things in storage and I was in a boarding house for a couple of weeks. I was used to a decent lifestyle and when I started seeing roaches at the boarding house, it scared me." Lynda was able to move to a transitional housing program where she could save some money, and a social worker there referred her to Community Link. "They helped me find an apartment where I could pay my own deposit and my own rent. I've been there seven years and haven't had a single late payment."

Lynda's involvement with Community Link led to a position on the Board of Directors, and she now works for the organization as an intake specialist. It's a job that allows her to assess each person that comes through, assure them that there is hope, and help craft a solution based on each individual case.

Sometimes Lynda gets a chance to share her own story with clients. "It's a scary thought not knowing where you'll be sleeping that evening," says Lynda. "I share my story and encourage them that it will be okay. We help give them hope."

Community Link has been giving people hope for 90 years, since it opened in 1929 as Travelers Aid, helping people stranded at Charlotte's train station return to a safe home in another city.

The organization has continually adjusted to meet the changing needs of the community, and now provides a continuum of services to help people in 16 counties find safe and affordable housing. Individuals and families who are housing insecure or homeless can find help through the Homeless to Housing and Asset Building programs.

With nearly half of our local workforce unable to afford safe and satisfactory housing,* affordable housing is more than a buzzy conversation topic in Charlotte. It's an acute need that Community Link is committed to meeting for as many people as possible.

"We see the affordable housing issue from both the rental and homeownership sides," says Harold Rice, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Community Link. "Home prices have increased over the years, but many people's incomes haven't increased at the same pace. People are having to spend more than half their income on housing costs. Some people feel like they're forced to stay in violent relationships because they can't afford to go anywhere."

The lack of affordable housing is clearly an issue with multiple dimensions and consequences. And it's an issue that Community Link is tackling in multiple ways, from identifying affordable rental options and temporary rent assistance to homeownership counseling and education.

How You Can Help

Community Link receives federal HUD funding for some of its programs, but relies on private donations for other situations, like families living week-to-week in a hotel.

"We are required to match a quarter of our federal funding from other sources," says Harold. "Donations from individuals, houses of worship and companies go a long way in helping us meet this requirement. And, like many local organizations, we've seen a reduction in our United Way funding. Private donations can help fill this gap."

You can also help Community Link by staying informed about the issues and using your voice to support affordable housing programs. "Show up at City Council meetings, vote for housing bonds when they come up. That's how people can help Community Link and all the agencies that are fighting to eradicate homelessness and add affordable housing," says Harold.

And if you find yourself facing housing insecurity or homelessness, know that compassionate people like Lynda Watson are ready to help you find safe and affordable housing.

Learn more about Community Link, here.

Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net. 

*46 percent of our local workforce cannot afford safe and decent housing, defined as being forced to spend more than a third of their income on housing. - Source: Community Link