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.
“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.”
I’m reading this really interesting book by Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty.
In it he describes a trip to Malawi and visiting a hospital where hundreds of people are literally stacked up in a ward as they lay there dying of AIDS because they cannot afford the dollar per day lifesaving medicine.
I’m watching the news this week and seeing the devastation wrecked by earthquakes that continues to erupt in Nepal and surrounding parts of India. Impoverished people barely subsisting before and now losing everything, including life, as leaders struggle to get resources where they’ll do the most good.
I’m sitting at lunch yesterday listening to a fellow Rotarian share about his trip this week to the Philippines to help bring relief in the wake of a devastating typhoon.
I’m thankful for those who seek to bring relief to the poor throughout the world. I often wonder if I shouldn’t be joining them.
I’m driving to work this morning through a neighborhood near the shelter, a route I’ve driven hundreds of times. Sitting on the side of the road is a woman I’ve also seen hundreds of times but haven’t really noticed. She’s huddled up shaking from the obvious signs of addiction withdrawal. I wonder what it’ll take to save her life, if her life will be saved. I can almost see this woman, in her present condition, transported to Malawi, or the Philippines, or Nepal. Would her situation be better or worse? Would she be noticed more or less? I have no idea.
What I do know is that there is suffering around the world, including right here in our own backyards. I also know that the resources, wisdom, and desire to address these issues exist. There are smart people in this world, like Jeffrey Sachs, who have figured out what needs to be done to save lives, alleviate suffering, and reduce poverty. I’ve heard it so many times now that I don’t know who to credit this saying but on a local, national, and global scale we don’t have a resource problem, we have a priority problem.
I still have this guilt, maybe its desire, to go to Malawi, or the Philippines, or Nepal to help in some small way bring relief to extremely poor people who face severe poverty, devastation, and death in ways I can hardly comprehend. Then, as I pull into the parking lot at the shelter, I think about the woman sitting on the road in my own backyard and I know what I’m going to do today.
In the next week, MSC plans to publish our first Quarterly Impact Report for the months July-August-September 2014 (1st Quarter of FY15). Our purpose in making this report public is to demonstrate to all of our stakeholders, as well as the larger community, the impact MSC’s Equation: Income+Housing+Support is having on ending homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. I’d like to give you a sneak preview to our upcoming report.
1st Quarter Results:
114 men have moved to more appropriate housing – we’re right on track to move 500 men this fiscal year
Average income for men moving out of our shelters is $917 per month
53% of moves are to permanency – rental housing and family reunification
As proud as we are that these numbers are demonstrating success, we’re even prouder of the men behind the numbers. Did you know that the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte serves fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins? Did you know MSC serves plumbers, roofers, chefs, information technologists, and entrepreneurs? Did you know that 10% of the men experiencing homelessness and seeking MSC’s assistance have proudly served in our United States armed forces? Too often we have a stereotype in mind when we think of a “homeless man.” However, the reality is that the men who are experiencing homelessness and served at MSC are you and me.
Keep your eye on our website – www.MensShelterofCharlotte – for the full report by the end of October. Next week I’ll share more of the impact MSC is having on ending homelessness for the men we serve.
Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down with my colleague and friend Carol Hardison to sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Crisis Assistance Ministry. Our agencies work together all the time helping people with basic needs like shelter and clothing, connecting them to emergency financial assistance for utilities, and moving them into their new home.
So if our staffs are already collaborating, why sign an MOU?
To Carol and me it’s pretty simple; collaborating is a two-way street with the ultimate purpose of helping those our agencies exist to assist. By writing down our purpose and partnerships plans – what we’re going to do together and why – we’re committing publically to each other. We’re holding each other up as equal partners. We’re demonstrating to our staffs, clients, boards, volunteers, and the community that we’re working together, allowing each other to do what we do best, for the benefit of citizens in our community who need our help. Collaboration means we’re acknowledging our dependence on each other for success for our clients and, therefore, our community. This partnership is not something we take lightly nor do just to say we’ve done it. Staff at all levels of our two agencies have been working together to define our collaboration for months. Signing this MOU is the culmination of lots of discussions, certainly some compromises, and recognizing our own agencies’ strengths and weaknesses and then joining forces to compliment each other.
So, when the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte says we’re collaborating with Crisis Assistance Ministry, we’re saying that we value their expertise, trust them to reciprocate as partners, and know that by working together we’ll be able to further our mission of ending homelessness for each man. I’m proud to say publically that Crisis Assistance Ministry and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte are collaborators for the good of our community.