What Is Homelessness? (And what can I do about it?)

40513980_10100559376776355_427109634021523456_nIn abstract, the term “homelessness,” carries a different mental image for all of us. Maybe it’s the cliche, torn cardboard sign, a slideshow of sad-looking people on a sidewalk set to the soundtrack of a Sarah McLachlan tune, or avoided eye contact on the side of the road.

For many, it may be easy to avoid colliding with homelessness altogether. It’s all too easy to stay in the Charlotte suburbs or take direct routes in and out of Uptown, sliding our eyes away from benches and doorways that are temporary shelter for our city’s homeless or nonchalantly locking the car doors in “unsafe” areas of town.

At the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center, our mission is to give hope to the hopeless. We believe that education about the reality of generational poverty and homeless is paramount to extending grace and love.

Part of that education includes learning surprising facts about homelessness in our own backyard. In Charlotte, 1476 people were recorded experiencing homelessness as of 2017. 21% are children. Just under half are female, almost 80% are African American and another 5% are Latinx. At least 137 are veterans.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to eradicating homelessness. A complex, bureaucratic and confusing system of government programs keeps many trapped in their impoverished and jobless situations. At the Dream Center, we extend our arms to bridge the confusion with hope, while clearly pointing our friends and neighbors to refuge and the rescuing love of Christ.

Practically speaking, in addition to our spiritually fortifying Bible studies and church services, we provide hands-on resources for those we serve like job training, GED classes, mentorship, financial services, nutrition classes and more. We know that the factors leading someone into homeless are complex at their core, but we have seen how an open hand, direct eye contact, and a simple, “Tell me your story,” can open a door to a transformative relationship.

We hope you’ll engage in the conversation on how to end homelessness in Charlotte and nationwide. And even more importantly, jump in and lend your hands and hearts.

There are roles for everyone in this mission, and the only way to move forward is together. Homelessness is a product of our country’s past and a problem of our present, and just because it isn’t happening directly to us doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting us and our community. To realize the role we each play in the solving of this problem, and then to work toward solutions, we have to understand it.

In the coming weeks on this blog, we’ll be addressing more specific issues with homelessness and generational poverty in Charlotte, how you can help, and most importantly, why you should.

National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Dashboard