I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but Mr. Hunt is one of mine.
He came to us at age 90, homeless for the first time after losing control of his finances. In describing the experience, he remarked, “That was a whole heap of a mess I never intended to get in to.”
Getting to know Mr. Hunt felt like going back in time. When talking with a woman, he would take off his hat and hold it over his heart. He would regale you with stories of being in the Air Force post-World War II and of being a librarian in New York City.
His kindness is matched by his stubbornness. Finding a housing option for him that maintained some level of independence was a must. And, we all rejoiced when he moved out earlier this month to a senior living apartment.
I shudder to think what could have happened to Mr. Hunt had Men’s Shelter of Charlotte not been there to meet him in his crisis, with shelter, food, and housing advocacy.
I also reflect, though, on the gift that Mr. Hunt’s presence provided us.
I met Mr. Hunt shortly after my grandmother’s death. Mr. Hunt’s story-telling and his sense of dignity reminded me of my grandmother, and was a comfort to me as I grieved. Watching other guest’s interact with Mr. Hunt was equally as beautiful, as various men spent time watching out for and talking with “pops.”
No doubt, all of us met each other in our time of need and in our humanity.
And that is what we do every day at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte: We meet each other in our humanity.
“Sometimes life gives you grenades disguised as lemons.” Former guest Charles recently wrote these words to Joe Hamby, Men’s Shelter of Charlotte’s Director of Income Services.
Charles was describing his “lemons” that began several years ago with relocation from Hurricane Katrina and more recently with job reduction and family strife. All of which exploded, leaving him with a yellow paper on his apartment door, evicted just 11 days before his 25th birthday.
Devastated, Charles spent a few nights riding the light rail and catching sleep in the ER waiting room, before he found his way to Men’s Shelter of Charlotte.
“I was struggling; but I wasn’t dead yet,” Charles goes on to write. So, he persisted, and took advantage of the additional services Men’s Shelter of Charlotte offers.
Through our employment team, he was connected to a local employer who offers innovative paid internships for motivated young adults. In fact, Joe gave him a ride to his interview, which included a pep talk before he went in. “Tell your story,” he advised Charles.
Charles successfully landed the internship. Additionally, through our housing program, Charles overcame his financial barriers, had an advocate to help navigate housing options, and gained access to a rental subsidy. Less than five months after his eviction, Charles’ experience with homelessness was ended.
“Forty-seven days in shelter, and now I’m housed! I feel blessed and grateful.” That’s the sentiment from Robert as he proudly stands in his kitchen in his own apartment.
Robert, who holds a B.A. in Sociology, hails from Ohio and came to Charlotte with his cousin and extended family looking for job opportunities. He worked for years installing sheet rock until a foot injury forced him into exploring a new career as a truck driver. That is, until his injured foot took a turn for the worse. After a necessary surgery, Robert contracted an infection, worsening his condition.
He found his way to Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Once getting his basic needs met, he had the support to take care of his medical needs and connected with our Employment Team. Our staff provided regular transportation for Robert to Goodwill’s Opportunity Campus where he enrolled in a six-week Construction Services class to obtain career-advancing certifications. He has since graduated.
During this time at the shelter, Robert put together a housing plan with help from our housing team. With limited income, Robert thought creatively and decided to share an apartment with another shelter guest. Sharing the apartment meant sharing the rent, a way to create affordability. Robert is also receiving a temporary rent subsidy through our Rapid Re-Housing program.
Now housed, Robert can fully recover from his foot injury and looks forward to accepting one of the job offers he’s already received through his program with Goodwill.
Robert reminisces on his time at the shelter, “There are real people over there, caring people, who are all so helpful.”
For Cedric*, experiencing homelessness was a way of life. Twenty plus years of life, in fact. In and out of Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, our team patiently worked to cultivate and grow a trusted relationship with Cedric. Struggling with severe mental illness, Cedric needed significant support. That support started with us and ultimately found him a home with Moore Place, permanent supportive housing created by Urban Ministry Center.
The notion of “it takes a village” certainly held true for helping Cedric. His two decades of homelessness took him to two states, several shelters, and eventually, the streets. The “village of help” took some unconventional turns including candy, cigarettes, bagged lunches, microwavable ravioli and finally – relationships. In the end, it was these relationships that helped Cedric become housed.
Urban Ministry Center’s Moore Place exists for the “Cedrics” of the world, those struggling with significant disabling conditions who can succeed with independent living while surrounded by a community of support. Cedric began developing relationships at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte where we provided supportive staff, basic needs, and kept him off the streets. The simple tasks of obtaining his photo ID and social security card, both of which are necessary for housing, seemed monumental tasks with Cedric’s struggles. Our staff’s persistence, patience, and investments in candy and ravioli paid off – twenty years of homelessness were ended when Cedric signed his lease last month.
Men’s Shelter of Charlotte – providing safe emergency shelter while working to end homelessness for each man!
(*) Note, Cedric is not this guest’s real name. Name is protected to maintain confidentiality.
“I’m trying to find a new way to live. I’m trying to find my purpose.”
After his mother lost her battle with cancer, Herman decided that staying in Durham was too painful and needed a fresh start. He moved to Charlotte and gained employment quickly. But after his housing plan didn’t work out and with nowhere to go, he turned to Men’s Shelter of Charlotte for help.
While Herman’s basic needs were met, he also took advantage of the employment services at the shelter. He frequently visited our Housing and Employment Resource Center. There, Herman found skilled volunteers and our Employment VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) worker, Dawn, who helped improve his basic computer skills, build a resume, set up an email account, navigate online job applications, and much more. Herman was also provided transportation to Goodwill’s Opportunity Campus (one of our key partnering organizations) to take advantage of workshops, budgeting classes and other vital employment resources.
Though Herman was employed, he found that with his newly acquired skills and certifications, many more opportunities became available. As a result, Herman landed a higher paying job as a cook with one of our employment partners, B.Good. Even better is that Herman is now with an employer where he can pursue a career in the culinary industry.
With new found stability, Herman moved into an apartment in early January with a roommate, also a former guest of Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Today, Herman continues “finding a new way to live” and is on the right track.