Men's Shelter of Charlotte

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More Appropriate Housing

I get asked often what the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte means when we talk about moving men into more appropriate housing.  Partly, I think the question stems from our desire to categorize things or fit them neatly into boxes.  I get it, I have my own need for order and consistency.  However, when dealing with people, we can’t do our best to serve when concerned more about classifying than understanding.  So, here’s how we explain the concept of “more appropriate housing” at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. 

First, sleeping in an emergency shelter is more appropriate than being on the streets.  I think most folks will readily agree on that.  Next, most other forms of housing are more appropriate than staying in a shelter.  Why?  Shelter must be a short intervention aimed at helping someone in crisis quickly stabilize and then move on with their lives.  For too long we’ve accepted the idea that once someone is in shelter it’s a good opportunity to deal with their issues so they can then be ready for housing.  Not so!  More than anything, long stays in shelter rob men of their esteem, their self-motivation.  We need to help them move out of the shelter as quickly and effectively as possible.  This starts with locating and obtaining more appropriate housing.  For example, for someone overcoming addiction, a long-term residential treatment program may be more appropriate than shelter.  A group home for medically fragile Veterans may be more appropriate.  Assisted living may be more appropriate.  For a lot of men, an apartment of their own is more appropriate.  For many, being reunited with family is more appropriate. 

Yes, there must be supports in place regardless of the housing opportunity to help deal with issues when times get tough.  But times get tough for all of us.  And when we have a support system we are able to deal with those obstacles and move on.  Same applies with moving men into more appropriate housing.  Making sure they have the income to sustain their housing choice and making sure supports are in place are critical.  But the first step is understanding that shelter is very temporary and most other forms of housing are more appropriate.  It’s not always a neat and tidy approach, but it’s incredibly effective.

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Carson Dean

In September 2008 I became the Executive Director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte. I've spent almost 15 years working to end homelessness in North Carolina. After working with homeless and runaway youth in Raleigh, I served as the Director of the South Wilmington Street Center (men's shelter) in Wake County and then worked on Orange County's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. I am a former board chair for the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness and former chair of the Homeless Services Network in Charlotte. In 2014 I served as the partner agency representative on the United Way Central Carolinas board of directors.

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