Old correctional facility may provide help for the homeless

From jail cells to homes

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Could an old correctional facility in Charlotte hold the key to serving and lowering our homeless population? It would need a face lift.

Weeds, barbed wire, and decaying buildings in this case fall in the category of troubling eyesore, but through an expanded vision some local dreamers at the old Charlotte correctional facility better known as Camp Greene may provide a big assist in easing the burden of homelessness.

Mark Middlesworth of Extravaganza Events and Props and his colleagues from North End Partners  the driving force behind the initiative of moving Charlotte's homeless population away from North Tryon to a location with a standing infrastructure that could provide a wide range of services.

"We've been looking for properties in this area that are off the beaten track right next to a bus line," he said. "We found a property that already has facilities built. It's got a mess hall it's got conference center. It's got everything in one place."

In theory, centralizing services for those in need may make sense.

Yavonka Byrd is a victim of what's called chronic homelessness.

"You have everything there far as your showering, day to day activities, and job search," Byrd said.

Bringing life to the vacant property of more than 40 acres is a concept that's easier said than done.

Consider this: the state of North Carolina still owns this parcel that's been empty for the last ten years, and in a hot real estate market land deals favor the highest bidder.

However, local government decision makers like Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham are all ears.

"I'm anxious to learn more, to study it, and follow it and see where it goes," Cotham said.

It is being billed as Charlotte's "Second Chance Campus," and Mark Middlesworth feels the words second chance applies to both the property and the people who could one day use it.

"They're investing 12 million dollars here, and 20 million dollars here to build affordable housing. We could put one million dollars into this campus and turn it into something that facilitate hundreds of people," Middlesworth said.

The next step for Middlesworth and his supporters is to get Charlotte City Council members and state lawmakers onboard with the plan.

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