Organizations search for new homeless feeding site as county sells building

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On most weeknights, the annex of the Hal Marshall Center in uptown Charlotte is bustling. People line up and warm Styrofoam plates are passed out by organizations like "Serve Charlotte's Homeless."

They serve dinner every Thursday night inside the Mecklenburg County facility.

"There's no questions asked. It's a place where they know there's going to be a meal provided. They know it's going to be a hot meal," coordinator Susan Lecker said.

People are fed dinner and given a chance to pick through some hand me downs which is a lifeline for people like Miami.

"I never thought to be eating with a bunch of homeless people. I never saw myself eating with a bunch of homeless people. I never thought to call myself a homeless man," Miami said.

He kindly invited WBTV back to his camp where he and his beloved dog Ruckus live. But he's not quick to call it home.

"Nobody wants to be homeless. I don't believe that anybody wants to be out here. It's cold. It rains. It gets hot. Nobody deserves it," he said.

Miami hasn't always been homeless. One misfortune after the next left him fighting to keep his head above water

"No matter what I've done to try to get ahead, it falls out from underneath me," Miami said.

He had an apartment for a few months but lost it and has now been on the streets for two years. Miami is quick to remind people that is hardly isolated.

"Yes. This can definitely happen to anyone because I never thought I'd be homeless," he said.

He doesn't want to live in a tent. He wants to work, but struggles to get past the stigma that follows him everywhere.

"I don't know. It's even with jobs. As soon as a job finds out that you're homeless that's a whole different ballgame. So do you almost feel like they look at you as less than? Yeah. You're definitely less than," he said.

But when he comes for dinner with Serve Charlotte, Miami feels like he's looked at as just another human being. Which is why it bothers him that his meal source could be in jeopardy.

"There's this constantly looming deadline of we may not have this place to serve meals," Lecker said.

In 2019, the county plans to sell the Hal Marshall Center and relocate their offices to another site. The sale has been in the works since 2008.

But the groups that serve multiple meals a week inside the center are about to be homeless themselves.

"I'm extremely worried," Serve Charlotte's Jeff Wilson said.

Mecklenburg County officials tell WBTV they've already been working to find a new site for the feedings. They say they've spent months contacting churches, non-profits and other facilities asking for their help, but have so far been unsuccessful. They insist they'll keep working to find a solution.

Serve Charlotte will continue to feed regardless.

"We will continue doing what we're doing. I have a little red pick-up truck. We will serve out of that," Wilson said.

A hot meal likely isn't Miami's ticket out of a tent and into a home, but it does bring him some relief. Serve Charlotte hopes they can keep doing so and they're praying someone steps out of their comfort zone and up to the plate.

"To serve 100-plus homeless people, poor people, every Thursday night and to look out here and see the skyscrapers and all the wealth that's there. And to be told this problem can't be solved and we can't do this, doesn't make sense to me, not at all," Wilson said.

It's unclear what the buyer will do with the land but the building will likely be demolished.

For more information about Serve Charlotte's Homeless, visit:

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