Cover Story: Homeless in Charlotte

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The people getting paid to be out in today's weather certainly weren't enjoying it.  Imagine having no choice.  The outdoors is your home.

So far since summer, the Men's Shelter of Charlotte has taken in some 2,000 men.  That's equal to the number they sheltered all last year.

Here's the bigger problem.

While Charlotte's homeless usually have a place to sleep, when the sun comes up, they've gotta get out.

For Nathaniel Locke it may look like fun being out in Monday's weather but pull him aside and he'll tell you a different story.

"My concern is why have they made us leave," said Locke.

Homeless for the last two years Locke called us this morning concerned about the policy the Men's Shelter of Charlotte uses at its Statesville Avenue campus.

At 7:00 o'clock each morning the facility closes and the men have to leave even in weather like this.

"What are you going to do today? Right now? Don't know. I'll probably just get on the bus and ride to stay warm," said Locke.

The shelter, which has about 300 beds and used to be known as the Emergency Winter Shelter, since merging with the Men's Shelter on Tryon Street now is open year round.

"All of the beds will be full."

But because of staffing executive director Carson Dean told us they can't stay open during the day.  Instead they will shuttle the men to the Tryon Street facility.

"In the morning during the daytime there are more options available to people including coming to our other facility. It is.. it's really a matter of the resources. It's more important for us to be open at night than during the daytime on this particular campus," said Dean.

To help fill the void Community Outreach Ministries less than two miles away opened its Harvest Center today, which is normally closed on Mondays.

"Many of us come from the streets ourselves. We wanted to make sure this place was open for those when the shelter's close they have a place to come," said Richard Benedict of the Center.

"Like some of the other fellas I had it a little rough, but God blessed me. So anytime I can do anything to bless them.. especially in weather like this.. that's what I do," said Ronnie Neely, a deacon at Community Outreach Ministries.

"Thank you."

On Monday they were giving out socks and cooking up meals.  They were offering the homeless men who needed shelter during the day a place to rest to be out of the elements.

"It's very important for them to so they won't catch cold or be better for them inside than outside," said Community Outreach's Marcelle Huntley.

It's estimated Charlotte has anywhere from 5,000-to-8,000 homeless.

What to do when the weather turns bad like today is becoming more of a concern as their numbers grow.

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