Men's Shelter of Charlotte

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Through the Eyes of Interns

We were fortunate enough to host two summer interns, Nathan and Katie, at the shelter during the summer of 2019. During their time with us, they were each deeply embedded in the shelter in different ways. We wanted to spotlight them and how their experiences impacted their lives moving forward.

Katie

“My name is Katie! I am a Charlotte native and I stand tall at 6’2”’. I played volleyball and studied Business Administration with a minor in Economic and Environmental Studies at High Point University. Before applying to this internship, I had seen a lot of recent articles in the news about the affordable housing crisis and homelessness across the U.S. After a couple months, I started to reflect about how homelessness can be such a “hush-hush” topic that not many people want to talk about or acknowledge. I reached out to the shelter for an internship because I wanted to learn more about homelessness and how people are affected by it in my community, and ways I can help. I have learned so much over the past two months, and I will now take the knowledge I’ve learned to raise awareness and start conversations about the affordable housing crisis. 

During my internship, I worked with the Engagement Team where my big project was creating a Charlotte Housing Authority Resource guide for guests to search for and compare affordable housing units. I also worked the front desk, where I was able to meet and converse with many guests. What I enjoyed most about the shelter (besides working with the AWESOME staff!) was learning and listening to people’s stories about their experience with homelessness. It really opened my eyes to how many different series of unfortunate events can lead to someone being without a home. It can happen to anyone. As Liz Clasen-Kelly wrote so eloquently in one of her blog posts, it is through listening to these stories that we meet people in their humanity. I am very thankful for and will hold onto some of the conversations I’ve had with guests for a very long time.” 

Nathan

“Hey! My name is Nathan and I am about to start my sophomore year at Davidson College where I study political science with a minor in data science. I am originally from a small town outside of Charlottesville, VA, and I have really enjoyed learning more about Charlotte this summer. I applied for an internship at the shelter because I really wanted to learn the names, faces, and stories behind Charlotte’s socioeconomic inequalities. I spend a lot of time at school studying the statistics; but I feel that there is power behind knowing the individuals in our society who are suffering, and spending time appreciating the shared humanity with all our neighbors. 

I was primarily helping the shelter assistants during the day by working at the front desk of the shelter. I also worked on some special projects, including updating the lottery admission process, helping with housing surveys and forms, inputting data into HMIS, and working on a couple of housing policy projects. I also worked in the Housing and Employment Resource Center by helping guests with job applications and resumes. The biggest thing I learned is that the way we treat our neighbors and guests as an institution matters. I’ve been deeply impressed by how dedicated the shelter staff are to building strong relationships with guests, and how most of the staff truly make someone’s day better every time they go to work. I’ve been impacted by the way the shelter restores hope and dignity to the guests. The shelter community impacted and shaped me far more than I could ever be in service to them — because ultimately, homelessness and housing instability will only ever be solved by all of Charlotte coming together in community for one another.”

Strength and Courage

Josue grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At just 21 years of age, Josue left his family to pursue his dream of becoming a civil engineer in the United States.

When Josue arrived in Charlotte, he didn’t speak English and was unsure where to turn for help. A “Good Samaritan” helped lead him to our shelter.

Read more on how Josue’s journey unfolds, and how he is living up to the powerful meaning of his name.

Strength and Courage

Josue Mpunga Mwela grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country rife with political oppression, police corruption, and violent conflicts between armed rebel groups and government security forces. Josue describes his homeland as a place where, “You don’t go out on the streets for any reason.”

At just 21 years of age, Josue left his family in the DRC in April 2018 to come to the United States and pursue his dream of becoming a civil engineer. He enrolled in Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) after searching for colleges that “did not require English proficiency.” Josue arrived in Charlotte ready to attend class, but when it came to housing, he had no idea where to go or who to turn to for help. A stranger Josue refers to as a “Good Samaritan” helped him find his way to our shelter for men.

He started at CPCC last summer and attended classes for two semesters, but was unable to continue paying tuition. Months later, he was reading the shelter’s “Daily Blast” (a flyer of daily happenings and resources for guests) and saw an announcement about a free Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technician Course offered through Charlotte Area Fund. Josue jumped at the opportunity!

Fast forward to today, and Josue has earned his HVAC Technician Certificate and is employed at Healthy Home Heating and Air. Josue’s next goals? Find housing and bring his 18-year-old brother to the United States once he graduates from high school. Josue is grateful to the Charlotte Area Fund for giving him a chance, and to staff members Turquandra Davis and April Hood, for being constant supports. Thanks to them, reuniting with his brother in Charlotte is now a possibility!

We learned that Josue’s middle name, Mpunga, is the name of a famous Kasai Tribe Chief. “Mpunga” means “strength and courage.” Living up to his name, don’t you think?  

For information on our Employment Program or interest in becoming an Employment Partner, contact Joe Hamby.

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