By Angela Lindsay
Beneath the shiny façade of office buildings and booming residential construction in Charlotte exists a sub-community often overlooked and underrepresented. As of January, there were 3,569 people experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg, according to county data—and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now that eviction proceedings have resumed following the expiration of Governor Roy Cooper’s eviction filing ban in July, the numbers of people experiencing homelessness has undoubtedly increased. Fortunately, there are grassroots organizations answering the call to help deal with this reality that is affecting so many. Here’s a look at a few that are making a difference.
Hope Vibes began organically in July 2016 when co-founder/director Adrienne Threatt shared a video on social media about the challenges women living on the streets face with their menstrual cycles. She and her husband and co-founder, Emmanuel, and a handful of their friends collected hygiene products to meet the need. Now, the organization serves at least 100 homeless men, women and children with personal hygiene products each month. They also provide winter wear, shoes and blankets in the cold months. Every 2nd Saturday, volunteers meet at 616 North Tryon Street to hand out hygiene packs to those in need before heading over to the women’s shelter on Spratt Street.
A $50,000 grant from Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way supports The Hope Tank, a mobile shower and laundry unit with two private bathrooms. Hope Vibes has also set up two solar-powered sinks in tent camps in Charlotte. The sinks have a water tank, touch- free faucets and touch- free soap dispensers. A $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo is assisting them with building six more.
Part of Block Love CLT’s mission is “to provide restoration, resources, education and essential tools to individuals experiencing hardship in our community.” The organization takes donations of clothing, food, tents, sleeping bags, toiletries, socks, shoes and other items to “the block” on the corner of North Tryon and Phifer Avenue every Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. They also help connect the needy to resources while encouraging them to trust the organizations that are designed to help.
Block Love CLT is also now taking supplies to blocks in areas near Northlake, Brookshire, North Tryon and Sugar Creek. In August, The Phills Foundation (started in honor of NBA player Bobby Phills who died in an automobile accident in 2000) hosted its first overnight Sleep Out CLT event. The goal was to continue serving neighbors in need while raising awareness about homelessness and funds for transitional housing and food.
In August, people living in a “tent city,” a homeless camp near West 12th and Poplar Streets, were forced to vacate the area over the property owner’s concern that it was interfering with business operations. They are the residents of these types of tent communities for which Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition (HFTIC) seeks to advocate and support. The group, comprised of front-line nonprofit organizations, was formed to directly respond to the homelessness crisis, lack of affordable housing, and the Uptown Charlotte encampment, whose population grew to an estimated 150-200 adults and children following the onset of COVID-19, according to HFTIC.
Members of the coalition were already sponsoring and assisting this population through housing provisions where possible and providing basic needs during the pandemic. They continue to provide food, personal care and first aid supplies, community cleanup and sanitation, showers, and survival supplies that include tents, sleeping bags and clothing.
HFTIC has petitioned Charlotte city officials to create emergency sheltering for tent city residents. The group also has requested that the city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg fund the organizations that are providing services and fighting the spread of COVID-19 within the homeless community on a daily basis.