Homelessness is not a new problem, but it does come with new challenges as a result of the pandemic.
The challenge of enforcing social distancing in shelters that are more crowded than ever.
The challenge of finding ways for volunteers to safely lend a hand without actually getting hands-on.
The challenge of facing a harsh reality that some neighbors who used to provide support for the homeless, are now in need of support of their own.
While some of our homeless neighbors have been living on the streets for years and are considered “chronically homeless”, others have suffered a series of events that have left no other options for housing and are often referred to as “situationally homeless”- being forced to live without housing due to a life-altering event, such as job loss, domestic violence, medical emergency, or natural disaster (Shelters to Shutters). Situational homelessness is a status many in our city and across the nation have fallen victim to as COVID-19 caused a record spike in the unemployment rate back in April and is still recovering (The Guardian).
While tent cities have been around in Charlotte for a long time, but have only continued to grow in large numbers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that many of those tents are filled with individuals and families who never anticipated being homeless. For an in depth look into tent city and the very real people and stories that make up this community in crisis, we recommend reading this article 10 Days in Tent City with the New Faces of Homelessness in Charlotte written by Michael Graff for Charlotte Agenda.
In September, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) released the 2020 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability & Homelessness Report funded by Mecklenburg County CSS and produced by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. This report is full of data and information on the systemic and structural causes of housing instability and homelessness and this year also features details related to the impact of COVID-19 on the capacity and demand for housing related services in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
If you have the time, we encourage you to read the full report. Here are some of the key findings included:
The inventory of permanent, affordable housing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is decreasing, while the need increases.
There is a 23,060-unit gap of rental units for extremely low-income households
Households with housing assistance face additional barriers, like Source of Income Discrimination, to access available permanent, affordable housing.
The problems of housing instability and homelessness predate the COVID-19 pandemic; however, COVID-19 has exacerbated these pre-existing conditions.
Permanent, affordable housing is critical for individual and public health.
Do You Know About The Point-in-Time Count?
Every January, Mecklenburg county conducts the Point- in-Time Count as mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is required of cities (such as Charlotte) who receive federal funding to prevent and end homelessness.
What is it? The Point-in-Time (or PIT) Count was created to provide a snapshot of the number of people who are experiencing homlessness on one identified night in January. On this dedicated night, volunteers go out into the community to count and survey Charlotte’s homeless population. For the purposes of the PIT Count, “experiencing homelessness” is defined as individuals in emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered locations.
As of now, this year’s Point-in-Time Count is set for Wednesday, January 27, 2021. To see last year’s results, or learn more about the purpose and importance of the PIC Count, go here.
If there is one thing we know to be true about homelessness, it is that each situation is different and requires different assistance solutions. Below, meet our local nonprofit partners who all do critical work to meet the various needs of our homeless population.
See an organization you want to support? Click the organization’s name to check out their SHARE Charlotte profile and learn more!
A Child's Place programs focus on supporting families with children in schools and neighborhoods left out of the economic prosperity of our city, often marked by segregation, poverty, and high rates of eviction and foreclosure. ACP deploys a team of specialists into schools and the community to work with the unique challenges of family homelessness. On-going case-management through individualized student plans aims to maintain attendance, healthy behaviors, and staying up-to-date on coursework.
Aid First, Inc. is a youth-led nonprofit organization that aims to help and facilitate upward mobility by providing goods and services that aid in general health to people who cannot obtain them, first starting in our local communities. Aid First aims to help the homeless and those experiencing financial instability through collecting resources, connecting with those who need them, and distributing aid.
Bright Blessings' mission is to bring joy, care and hope to homeless and impoverished children by mobilizing volunteers of all ages. This organization operates four core programs, Bless-A-Birthday, Bless-A-Baby, Gift of Literacy and Gift of Care which have impacted over 27,000 local children this year in partnership with school systems and dozens of shelters, housing facilities and community support agencies across a five-county area.
The mission of Charlotte Family Housing is to empower working families experiencing homelessness to achieve long-term self-sufficiency through shelter, housing, supportive services and advocacy.
Charlotte Rescue Mission helps men and women battling drug addiction. They offer a 120-day residential drug abuse recovery program that empowers individuals to move beyond the cycles of homelessness and addiction to become productive citizens in the community.
Community Link enables individuals and families to obtain and sustain safe, decent and affordable housing. They serve their customers from homeless to homeownership, every step of the way. In their Asset Building program, low-to-moderate income households can avoid foreclosure, grow savings, or buy a first home. Their financial empowerment workshops include budgeting, saving, and understanding credit to improve participants' financial independence.
FACET's mission is to provide specialized resources to assist homeless women, and those at risk for becoming homeless, in the Charlotte community transition from homelessness toward independence.
Foundation For Girls empowers women to take charge of their lives by “Giving the Power Back to the Young Women". They are leading the way in driving long-term systemic change to economically empower young women through conscious collaboration, consistent community, and critical capabilities. 98% of the young women they work with have no support system and do not have a caring adult in their life. They are homeless and are living in a borrowed space far away from available services.
Gracious Hands Transitional Housing for Homeless Women and Children
Gracious Hands houses homeless women and their children for one year, while providing basic services food, showers, laundry, mail, counseling. The women using Gracious Hands services must find employment and save 50% of their income which goes into escrow until time of transition out of the house. Gracious Hands Transitional Housing provides all services that participants need through community agencies, mental health services and other organizations.
Healing Vine Harbor
The mission of Healing Vine Harbor is to reduce the number of single women living in shelters or unsafe situations, providing a pathway out of poverty to ensure self-sufficiency. We transform lives one woman at a time through independent living skills such as financial literacy, educational preparation, employability readiness, mentoring and much more.
Home Again Foundation, Inc.
Home Again Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustainable, affordable housing and communities with supportive services for the homeless, those who are at risk of becoming homeless, and the low income.
Hope Haven helps men and women who are battling drug addiction and offers a residential recovery program that empowers individuals to move beyond the cycles of homelessness and addiction to become productive citizens in the community. Hope Haven is still dedicated to helping people in recovery rebuild their lives by providing them supportive services needed to achieve healthy recovery and economic independence.
The Hope House Foundation provides transitional housing and supportive services to women and children who are experiencing homelessness in the Lake Norman area in order for them to procure long-term housing and self-sufficiency.
Hope Vibes fulfills its mission by providing hygiene products, free laundry days, mobile shower/laundry vehicles and hope filled conversation to our homeless neighbors and others experiencing extreme poverty. Hope Vibes also facilitates educational school chats in public and private K-12 classrooms within the region, giving students an opportunity to learn about homelessness and be a part of a solution by coordinating school donation drives. Hope Vibes also serves as a bridge between other organizations to build partnerships.
Lotus Campaign knows that the scope of homelessness is beyond the capacity of public and nonprofits sectors to address alone. That's why this local nonprofit is building a new model that brings together the private and nonprofit sectors to create sustainable, scalable solutions and lasting impact. Their mission is to increase the availability of housing for people experiencing homelessness by engaging the for-profit sector as a partner in the solution.
My Sister’s House is a transitional living program for single, homeless women that equips residents with tools and resources to establish and sustain self sufficiency and end homelessness.
Perfect Provisions, Inc. is a mobile soup kitchen serving the people of Charlotte that not only provides hot, delicious food, but clothing and other essential items are provided as well. Perfect Provisions currently provides a meal and clothing for 750 - 800 homeless people per month in Charlotte.
Could you go weeks without a shower? Sadly, that's a reality for many humans right here in the Queen City. Project Outpour provides shower access to persons moving through homelessness, alleviating suffering and promoting holistic health and dignity.
This merged agency is a comprehensive homeless service provider that offers a continuum of care to people experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County. The continuum of services covers everything from street outreach, basic services (mail, showers, laundry) and a year-round soup kitchen, an emergency shelter for men, Room in the Inn, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing programs. In addition, they offer a substance abuse program that offers transitional housing to men in recovery.
As a health and human services organization, RunningWorks’ mission in the community is to work with individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity to address their needs for physical, emotional and social well-being. They provide housing, homeless outreach and social services. Their focus is addressing the medical and non-medical factors that affect the overall health of adults and children experiencing homelessness and poverty. These factors include access to shelter, transportation, food security, interpersonal safety, education and economic mobility.
Samaritan House provides short term recuperative care for the homeless recently discharged from local hospitals. They provide a safe, clean and home like environment for recuperation. 80% of the individuals served by Samaritan House do not return to the streets, shelters and/or hospitals.
ShowerBus N’ CLT is transforming two retired city buses into pink and blue mobile showers with laundry facilities, for the homeless and displaced in North Carolina. While these buses are being created, they are providing shower bags to the displaced. Showers can nourish a feeling of confidence at work, school, or even on a city bus or train and this organization is “Scrubbing the Carolinas one shower and one load of laundry at a time"
SocialServe is a nonprofit that connects people to housing and provides supportive, second chance employment. SocialServe’s vision is a world with equal access to housing and employment. Socialserve.com provides web- and call-center-based services locally and nationally to connect people to community-based housing.
The mission of Supportive Housing Communities (SHC) is to alleviate homelessness and human suffering. SHC primarily serves the chronically homeless population who have been homeless for at least one year and have a disabling condition, such as alcoholism, mental illness or a chronic disease. To carry out their mission, SHC uses a permanent supportive housing (PSH) model which links permanent, affordable rental housing with access to flexible, voluntary supportive services, including health care, mental health counseling, substance use treatment and employment services to help the chronically homeless maintain stable housing and live independently in the community.
The Harvest Center of Charlotte’s mission is to create a community where individuals affected by homelessness, poverty, and unemployment are empowered through our transitional programs and transformed by the love and ministry of Jesus Christ. For ten years, they have served more than 200,000 meals to the homeless and graduated 200 adult men and women through their transitional housing model.
The ODD Sock partners with large and small nonprofits worldwide that serve poor, orphaned, widowed, homeless and street people. They supply them with clean, gently used and new socks and other humanitarian aid. The ODD Sock has supplied and continues to supply socks to over 20 locations locally, nationally and internationally. In the last 5 years The ODD Sock has collected over 143,000 socks and delivered to other nonprofits over 125,000 pairs of socks.
The Relatives is a system of resources that helps children and youth find shelter and support. Their Youth Crisis Center, On Ramp Resource Center and Housing programs keep kids safe and families together. The Relatives serves as the Safe Place agency for Mecklenburg County and the surrounding area, partnering with local businesses to ensure young people in need have access to immediate help and supportive resources. The Relatives provides case management and scattered site housing to young adults ages 18-24 who are at-risk, experiencing homelessness, or fleeing domestic violence situations. Residents of their housing program receive the necessary support to find or maintain employment, enroll in school, or even find affordable childcare.
To Serve with Love Ministries, Inc.’s primary mission is to help battle homelessness and provide services that strengthen and preserve families in partnership with the faith community, businesses, and other agencies from the public and private sector. Their focus and commitment is providing the experiences and tools necessary to strengthen and empower families to ensure success and when possible, to keep families together. TSWL is a professional resource for the homeless.
The work of Unwrap the Gift, Inc. reaches out to our neighbors in need, helps to improve their quality of life and enriches our communities. They strive on educating, empowering and giving to others, in order to improve their quality of life. It is their goal to obtain housing for the underserved.
“Veteran’s Path Up” mission is to provide affordable stable housing to Veterans and Veteran families through the use of shared living, single family residences, and ultimately a path to home ownership. Their emphasis is to provide housing for homeless, working, and disabled veterans many of whom do not qualify for long term support from any government agency.