Lotus Campaign in Charlotte takes unique approach to make housing available for homeless

Lotus Campaign in Charlotte takes unique approach to make housing available for homeless

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - You’ve heard it a million times. Here in Charlotte we’re in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

Many groups are trying to solve it, but one new organization is taking a different approach to making housing available.

A few months ago a group of people with experience in real estate came together with a simple strategy of engaging the private real estate and investment communities to end homelessness.

Out of that idea, the Lotus Campaign was born.

“Profit is not a bad word,” co-founder Philip Payne said. “It’s a tool.”

It’s the tool he is using to house people who are usually turned away.

“If you can show people how they can make money doing something, they will do it,” he said.

The Lotus Campaign launched in July of 2018, since then they have housed 66 people.

Their first step is providing incentives for landlords to lease to the homeless, by recognizing why they don’t want to.

“That barrier of we’re just not going to take you because you don’t have a good employment history, you don’t have a good rental history, you don’t have a credit history,” he said.

The Lotus Campaign is breaking down those barriers through their Landlord Participation Program. They pay landlords upfront and eliminate some of the risks associated with leasing to someone who was homeless.

“They make the unit available and they waive their security deposit because Lotus is guaranteeing against the damage and the loss of rent," he said.

Lotus focuses on finding the units, partnering with organizations that find the renters.

Right now they’re working with RunningWorks, Urban Ministry and Charlotte Family Housing

RunningWorks has seen a lot of success stories through their partnership.

It’s an organization that encourages the homeless to turn their lives around by empowering them through the sport of running. When they meet someone who needs a home, they call Payne.

“We’ve been able to place 24 people in housing, including families with 7 children, so it’s been an amazing partnership,” RunningWorks Housing Coordinator Michaela Duckett said.

One of the people to benefit is Wallace Sessoms. He is a veteran who lived on the streets of Charlotte for 10 years.

He eventually got housing through Veteran Affairs, but after five years he was facing the possibility of homelessness once again.

“Then you kind of wonder, after someone tells you they’re not going to renew your lease, you’re like ‘Where am I going? Where am I going?’” Sessoms said.

By chance, he met the founder of RunningWorks, Meredith Dolhare, at a booth in uptown.

She called Payne to find him somewhere to go.

“About two weeks later she came up and said ‘Ok fill out this application,’" Sessoms said. "'I said what?' Ok so I filled out the application. About 2 hours later people called me and she said ‘Ok you’re in!’”

Payne’s plan seems to be working, but he isn’t stopping there.

He’s also buying apartment complexes. Lotus Campaign closed on the Sharon Crossing Apartment Homes in November 2018.

“It’s a 144-unit property,” he said. "Thirty units will be reserved for use by Lotus participating sponsoring organizations.”

He said the project cost about $17 million dollars and it takes over $6 million dollars in equity. The balance was a loan.

For the Lotus Campaign, the sky is the limit.

“We have a goal that we’ll help 250 people in our first 12 months," he said.

It’s good news for people in need of a second chance.

“It got me set up and prepared to do a lot of things, structure myself and my life,” Sessoms said.

The support for these people doesn't stop once they're housed.

The Lotus Campaign’s partnering organizations continue to provide social services and job counseling to help them rebuild their lives.

Copyright 2019 WBTV. All rights reserved.