Men's Shelter of Charlotte

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My View from the Men's Shelter

Bigger News

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the news about my plans to step down.  I think we (MSC) even titled it “Big News.”  Maybe it is, but I’d like to share some BIGGER NEWS.  Before the end of February, MSC will be releasing our first Diversion evaluation report to the community.  Diversion is a best practice that keeps people experiencing homelessness from having to spend a single night in emergency shelter by helping them find more appropriate alternatives, including family reunification.  The social and economic costs of keeping people out of the emergency shelter system is tremendous, not only for that person or family, but also for the health of the community.

Let me offer you a first look into our upcoming report.  In an 8-month period in 2015, MSC diverted 109 people, which was 11% of the total number of people seeking emergency shelter during those same months.  More than a month after being diverted, we checked in with a sample set of the people and 96% told us they were doing ok and not in need of emergency shelter!  Our cost to divert someone from emergency shelter compares to less than 3 weeks in our emergency shelter and is about half the cost that other programs around the country are anticipating as they launch diversion efforts.  It is MSC’s goal to successfully divert 20% of those seeking emergency shelter by the end of 2018 and early results indicate we’re already halfway to that goal.

So, while the news may be about me for a minute, the real story is how MSC continues to work hard every day helping people end their homeless experience in ways that are best for those we serve and the community in which we all live.  Kudos to our team for staying focused and kudos to those we serve for persevering.

You’re Invited to Make a Lasting Impact

Our Renovation Campaign

By now you may have heard that the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) has undertaken a capital campaign to improve our North Tryon Street campus facility.  The building is over 60 years old and in need of some TLC.  MSC is thankful for the forethought of our previous board of directors who obtained ownership of our property back in the mid-1990s.  We’re not looking to expand our shelter; in fact, we’ve steadily reduced the need for emergency shelter beds since the height of the recession due to our best practice rapid rehousing program (1,500+ successfully moved from shelter since 2012!).  

However, we still need to ensure safe emergency shelter for those in need, while also providing space for our partner agencies to help us meet the medical, mental health, substance abuse, employment, housing, and other supportive needs of those we serve.  Plus, with our growing diversion, medical respite, community care, and employment partnerships initiatives, our North Tryon Street campus is critical to our ongoing success.  Since we’re strategically located near uptown in a place well know to those who need our assistance, improving our current facility makes perfect sense.

MSC was founded by the Charlotte community in 1981 and we’ve enjoyed tremendous community support for over 30 years (thank you!).  We’ve kicked off the public phase of our capital campaign after garnering significant support from the faith and foundation communities.  We’d love for you to consider further investing in our mission by supporting our campaign to renovate MSC’s North Tryon Street Campus Building.  Check it out…


For questions or to donate, please contact Randall Hitt, Director of Philanthropy at 704.334.3187 x 109 or

6 for 2016

Happy New Year!  After being on vacation for the past two weeks, returning to works feels a bit like I’ve jut been thrown into the deep end and told to swim.  Even so, I wanted to take a few minutes today and share the following 6 Reasons Why MSC is Unique (in no particular order because they’re all equally important):

  1. ROI (return on investment) – one way MSC measures your support is by how many men move home … 1,500 and counting since 2012!
  2. No Labels – MSC wants to help all who are experiencing homelessness, regardless of whether that experience can be labelled chronic, situational, episodic, etc.  We believe homelessness is an unfortunate experience and not a condition to be labeled.
  3. Equation – MSC continues to prove that the solution to homelessness comes through our Equation:  Income + Housing + Support = Home.
  4. Anti-Shelter Emergency Shelter – contradictory sounding but MSC firmly believes there is too much reliance on emergency shelter as a de facto housing solution and not enough emphasis on the tools we use to solve homelessness including diversion, rapid rehousing, and housing first.
  5. Unlimited Chances – we learn through our mistakes and sometimes it takes multiple tries to get it right.  MSC believes in holding people accountable for their actions, allowing them to make their own decisions, and always being there whenever someone is ready to try again.
  6. Transparency – just take a look at our quarterly community impact report to see where we’re doing well and where we need to improve. 

Good thing I already know how to swim 🙂

Why Homeless Services Must Remain Uptown

Charlotte is among many communities across the country striving to put its best foot forward by attracting people to a vibrant downtown that is easy to access, offers diverse cultural experiences, caters to tourists, and promotes economic prosperity. As Charlotte continues to emerge as a world class city, it must also wrestle with the problems that accompany such growth. We are fortunate to have leaders in the business, government, civic, and faith spheres who agree that we must address these growing pains in a way that is in the best interest of all citizens, including those experiencing homelessness. Some communities have chosen to create unfriendly and even exclusionary policies towards homeless citizens in an attempt to “clean up” their downtowns. Charlotte, on the other hand, has chosen to demonstrate compassion for our most vulnerable citizens while focusing of economic development, a win-for-all approach involving a host of city leaders including Charlotte Center City Partners.

An errant idea that keeps emerging is to move homeless services providers further from uptown Charlotte in attempt to relocate those experiencing homelessness to an unnoticeable part of town because doing so will attract more people and greater business opportunity to the city. In other words, the argument contends that to be able to redevelop portions of town like our North Tryon Street corridor, we must remove “undesirable elements.” This approach is flawed for several reasons. First, companies looking to relocate to Charlotte want to move to a city that is addressing its problems proactively, not simply hiding them. Second, where do you relocate “undesirable elements” and what happens when their new neighborhood undergoes redevelopment? A vicious cycle of discrimination against our homeless citizens emerges. Third, if you want to increase the presence of homelessness uptown, move the shelters and service providers away from the center city. This may sound counter-intuitive, but take a closer look. Our citizens experiencing homelessness need easy access to jobs, medical care, transportation hubs and the like. These are the same services and opportunities that are intentionally consolidated uptown for the specific purpose of being easily accessible to citizens who live, work, and play in our center city. At the very least, citizens experiencing homelessness should be treated first and foremost as citizens.

When shelters and other service providers are located away from center city, homeless citizens still go downtown like everyone else. However, they are apt to spend considerably more time downtown because transportation is a serious barrier to mobility. Think about it this way, for many of us heading uptown is pretty easy. We drive our cars, pay for parking, conduct business or enjoy our leisurely pursuits and then get back in our cars and go home. Or, if we can afford, and choose, to live in one of the many high rise residential properties located uptown, we then walk, call on Uber, or use the new trolley to get around. Our citizens experiencing homelessness cannot afford parking deck rates or uptown rents, much less having access to any reliable transportation. But they still rely on the service jobs that make our uptown so enjoyable; and, of course, support prosperous economic development. They need access to the healthcare facilities centrally located around uptown, and they need to come and go utilizing the transportation hub in the middle of town. Moving the places where those experiencing homelessness sleep at night or get help during the day will only make matters worse for our most vulnerable citizens. This is why the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte has been located just a few blocks up North Tryon Street for over 25 years and why we will continue to reside in our current location for the next 25 years.

Homelessness, Immigration, and Refugees

All of these people – not so much the issues but the actual people – have been weighing heavily on my heart of late.  Instead of getting into the politics, policy, or other aspects of each “problem,”  I just want to take a brief time out today and be intentionally mindful that all of these involve someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, child, grandparent, neighbor, friend … 

I’m reminded of one of my very favorite songs, Mercy Now, by Mike Farris (take three minutes and watch it on YouTube).  I’ll leave you for today with this line from the song –

And I love my brother; he could use a little mercy now. Oh, yes he can


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