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47 Days in Shelter; Now Home

Robert Moves Home

“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.”

Working the HERC

by Greg Asciutto

When I started volunteering in the Housing and Employment Resource Center (HERC) at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte two years ago to help men build resumes, apply for housing and search for employment. 

I saw the experience as a way to familiarize myself with the needs of Charlotte’s homeless community. I was in my first year of teaching at Garinger High, where roughly 5% of the student population is homeless. Through the shelter’s guests, I thought I’d be able to learn about the city’s complex social service system so I could be a better resource for my students and their families.

Fortunately, the dozens of men whom I’ve grown close to over the past few years have taught me about more than how to navigate that system; they’ve taught me how to be human.

When I walk into the HERC, I feel part of a community that genuinely cares for its members. It’s not all “business,” and for the sake of sanity it can’t be; politics, sports and family are just as important topics of conversation as housing application statuses and job interviews. Even when the end game is housing, life has to continue – helping men with that balancing act is what keeps me coming back each week. 

Visit out website for more information about the HERC or to sign up for other volunteer opportunities! 

What I’m Going To Do Today

I’m reading this really interesting book by Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty.

In it he describes a trip to Malawi anThe End of Povertyd 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.

Rapid Rehousing & MSC’s Equation

I’m blogging early this week since tomorrow is Men’s Shelter of Charlotte’s Moving Men Home 2015 Community Partnership Breakfast and Fundraiser.  We’re so looking forward to gathering with about 600 friends to show how MSC continues to end homelessness in our community. 

This week the National Alliance to End Homelessness released a blog discussing the 3 components every Rapid Rehousing Program should have – Find Housing, Pay for Housing, Stay in Housing.  You can check it out here.

It was cool to see the National Alliance’s blog post validating what we do at MSC everyday.  Our team is constantly working to build relationships with landlords to find housing.  In addition to helping men increase their income to pay for housing, MSC offers some short-term rental subsidies to those who really need such help.  Finally, we strive to ensure every man moves out with at least 2, and preferably 5, supports in place to help him stay housed.

In other words, MSC’s equation dovetails perfectly with national best practices in Rapid Rehousing:  Income (Pay for Housing) + Housing (Find Housing) + Support (Stay in Housing) = An End to Homelessness!  So cool!

A smile that is contagious

Meet Derek and Fred.

The pair volunteers at the shelter at least 3 days a week.  Some days you will find them greeting guests and passing out drinks during lunch.  Other days they will organize and sort donations in the commissary. 

Derek & Fred pic

One thing is for sure – Derek’s smile is contagious.  He brings energy and compassion to melt your heart. 

“We are fortunate that Men’s Shelter of Charlotte allows us to spend a few hours each week with the men.”

Thank you, Derek & Fred, we’re truly lucky to have them!

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