Effort launched to combat housing instability, homelessness in Charlotte

Organizations work together to end homelessness in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Several major organizations are launching a joint effort to combat housing instability and homelessness in Charlotte.

It is described as “a comprehensive community-wide effort” to create a strategic plan around housing instability and homelessness in the community.

The 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy is led by Cathy Bessant, Chief Operations and Technology Officer for Bank of America and Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health.

Nearly 50 city, county, non-profit and corporate leaders are all part of this comprehensive community undertaking.

That includes including those who serve on the front lines of housing instability and homelessness and those with lived experience of homelessness. More leaders will continue to be added to this team.

“Homelessness is a human and community tragedy, and we are all impacted by it,” said Bessant. “Our focus will be on developing an approach that addresses the full continuum of need, and on helping to drive meaningful and lasting change. With everyone at the table, including the public, non-profit, and private sectors, we plan to support existing work and create innovative, new approaches. I’m delighted to be working with Gene Woods and our dedicated and thoughtful group to help make the world a better place.”

By October 1, 2021, this group expects to have developed and begun to launch a five-year strategic plan to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg become a national leader in addressing current and preventing future homelessness.

“We’ve got a community of people that are homeless and one of the things we don’t want to say is ‘we’re planning, call us back in October’ or ‘we’ll get there in October’ we’re getting there today,” said Deronda Metz, the Director of Social Services for the Salvation Army Center of Hope Shelter.

Over 3,000 people in Mecklenburg County are experiencing homelessness.

“The fact that we have more than 3,000 people experiencing homelessness right now. I feel like the community is unified in saying that’s unacceptable,” said Liz Clasen-Kelly the CEO of Roof Above.

The non-profit Hearts Beat as One Foundation is on one committee making sure the people who are homeless get the resources they need such as food, hygiene items, and clothing.

“It’s super important that they have brought us in and let the people who are the boots on the ground actually have a voice in this situation because we do speak for them in so many ways,” said Bethany McDonald, the program director for Hearts Beat as One Foundation.

Hope Haven Inc. will provide substance use, recovery, and mental health resources to people as they’re transitioning to their homes.

“Not only are we doing the addiction recovery work, but people are seeking living wage jobs and obtaining permanent housing,” said Kristin Blinson, the CEO of Hope Haven Inc.

The Salvation Army Center of Hope and Roof Above will be working together in the short term and over the next four years to make sure adequate shelter and housing space are available.

“We’ll be looking at diversion, emergency shelter, and transitional housing,” Metz said.

Roof Above will also be on the frontlines and advising other organizations as a part of the Working Group.

“We have that expertise from decades of work, from relationships with people we serve and then also from all of our programs and the study of the issue,” Clasen-Kelly said.

The strategic plan aims to offer aligned strategies, unified goals, and clear funding pathways.

“It’s fundamental to your health to have a roof over your head and to know where your next meal will come from,” said Woods. “That’s why we are committed to a sustainable solution that lifts up those who are dealing with homelessness and precarious housing instability. I couldn’t think of a better co-chair than Cathy Bessant, nor better partners than the community servants we have assembled, to join in this effort. As we have seen especially throughout the pandemic, Charlotte has a track-record of government, businesses and health systems coming together to address our most pressing health and social issues. And I am optimistic that we can work collectively to meet this challenge as well.”

In addition to Atrium Health and Bank of America, a consortium comprised of representatives from Mecklenburg County, City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care and Charlotte Center City Partners have provided initial support to lay the foundation for Thursday’s launch.

The framework of this comprehensive plan will be guided by four main pillars, according to leaders:

  • Strengthening the prevention system
  • Optimizing the temporary housing/shelter system
  • Growing permanent affordable housing
  • Strengthening cross-sector supports.

The five key focus areas of this work are:

  • Unified policy advocacy
  • Coordinated funding alignment
  • Innovative data analytics
  • Effective communications
  • Ongoing strategy support.

“To be truly effective, this plan must also be stakeholder-driven and steeped in equity, transparency and inclusivity,” a press release reads.

To learn more about this work and to get involved, please visit www.charmeckhousingstrategy.com or email charmeckhousingstrategy@mecknc.gov.

Co-Chairs

  • Gene Woods - Atrium Health
  • Cathy Bessant - Bank of America

Rest of working group

  • Will Alston - Wells Fargo
  • Erin Barbee - DreamKey Partners/Co-Chair Leading on Opportunity
  • Kristin Blinson -Hope Haven
  • Laura Clark - United Way of Central Carolinas
  • Liz Clasen-Kelly - Roof Above
  • Jesse Cureton - Novant Health
  • Dena Diorio - Mecklenburg County
  • George Dunlap - Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners
  • Mark Ethridge - Ascent Real Estate Capital
  • Tom Finke - Adara Acquisitions
  • Malcolm Graham - Charlotte City Council
  • Trish Hobson - The Relatives/Chair Coordinated Entry Oversight Committee for CoC
  • Chris Jackson - Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont
  • Marcus Jones - City of Charlotte
  • Valerie Kopetzky - Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center
  • Janet LaBar - The Alliance
  • James Lee - Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice
  • Michael Marsicano - Foundation For The Carolinas
  • Fulton Meachem - Inlivian
  • Deronda Metz - Salvation Army
  • Di Morais - Ally Bank
  • Tim Sittema - Crosland SE
  • Lori Thomas - UNC Charlotte

Advisors

  • Fritz Nauck - McKinsey
  • Michael Smith - Charlotte Center City Partners

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