How do you help the homeless population? Do you give them warm meals, and temporary shelter? Do you organize second-hand coat drives for the winter? Do you provide temporary shelter, on the condition that they stay sober and drug-free? Do you hand out Bible verses, words of inspiration, motivational success stories?
Or, more simply, do you give them homes?
It turns out the equation is much simpler than we think: the homeless are homeless because they don’t have homes.
If they get homes, they won’t be homeless anymore. Not only that – but the city will save a ton of money in the process (think: high emergency room bills, the cost of jail time for petty crimes like loitering, etc.).
That’s the basic premise behind the Housing First initiative. If you provide people with housing first, they’ll be a whole lot better prepared to deal with other problems like mental health issues, drug addictions, etc. Plus, you’ll save your city a ton of money in the long run.
It’s been effective in other cities across the United States, and now it’s working in Charlotte, too.
Moore Place is part of our city’s plan to end homelessness by 2016. I interviewed Katie Church, the Tenant Services Coordinator at Moore Place, to learn a little more about what Moore Place is doing to end homelessness in Charlotte.
What do you think is the most common misconception surrounding the homeless population?
“Thank goodness I’ll never have to face homelessness.” Sure you could. Hopefully you won’t, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibilities for anyone. How many safety nets do any of us have in our lives that prevent us from experiencing homelessness? For most people it’s a surprisingly short list. Many of the tenants we serve have histories of full-time employment, high school and college degrees, and connections with friends and family members. All it takes is the perfect storm of obstacles and losses for anyone to find themselves spiraling into a place of crisis. And sometimes crisis takes the shape of homelessness. Job loss, displacement, addiction, divorce, mental health challenges, illness, death of a family member, physical disability – any of these could constitute a full-blown personal crisis, let alone two, three, or more of these factors combined.
The misconception that “I will never be homeless,” is not one that I often hear said with malice. Come to think of it, I don’t think it’s often voiced at all. It’s more of an underlying us vs. them mentality that can obstruct meaningful relationships and a greater sense of unity between the housed and the homeless.
What plans does Charlotte have to address the issue of homelessness? How does Moore Place fit in?
Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a new initiative our community has taken on geared toward ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. With lots of help from community partners and supporters, Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks program has already ended homelessness for each of our tenants, 85 of whom live in Moore Place, with another 90 residing in our scattered site programs.
Are there any current plans for expanding Moore Place and other Housing First efforts?
Yes! We will soon be expanding Moore Place to include another 35 apartments! Additionally, partners in the Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg movement are making plans to provide the volume of housing that will be needed to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
What can the community do, if they’re interested in helping?
The Urban Ministry Center relies on support from volunteers on a daily basis. Those who are interested in volunteer opportunities can visit our website or can email our Volunteer Coordinators. Those interested in volunteering within HousingWorks can contact Katie Church.