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Social workers creating fruit and vegetable garden at Charlotte hotel-turned-homeless shelter

Social workers are getting creative to solve homelessness, something they had to learn to do on the fly during the pandemic.
In July they began housing homeless families in a local hotel, and in January they officially purchased it.
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Social workers are the backbone of the Salvation Army, providing a wide range of services for countless homeless people every year.

Now they are getting creative to solve homelessness, something they had to learn to do on the fly during the pandemic.

In July they began housing homeless families in a local hotel, and in January they officially purchased it.

On Wednesday a team of social workers got their hands dirty breaking ground on a garden on the property.

They hope the fruits of their labor make a long-term impact on the community.

“When we look at what social work was yesterday, and what it is today, it’s not just sitting there doing an interview with a family,” Deronda Metz, the Director of Social Services at The Salvation Army, told WBTV. “It’s much, much more.”

Metz has been working with the Salvation Army in Charlotte for more than three decades.

She started as an intern, and now she leads the social workers.

“They working with the mom, they working with the child, and then they put on this advocacy navigation hat,” she said.

On Wednesday, they put shovel to dirt on a fruit and vegetable garden at the hotel-turned-shelter.

“Getting healthy, getting out of homelessness, a new fresh start for our moms and children, it all just came together,” Metz said.

The garden is not just a food source, it will also be an opportunity for the kids to get involved.

There is also a Boys and Girls Club on the property to give the children who live there a place to go after school.

“I’m really excited to see how the Boys and Girls Club takes advantage of this project and gets out here and picks the veggies and makes some stuff with it,” social worker Hannah-Marie Warfle said.

Warfle has been a social worker with the Salvation Army for almost six years.

She says she looks forward to this shelter keeping more families together, providing more children with a place to go after school, and giving everyone a greater sense of independence.

“For them to move from a shelter mindset into transitional housing mindset,” she said. “They can make their own meals, they’re responsible for their own rooms, taking care of their own children, and making sure that they’re getting their goals met with the help of a social worker.”

The job is a tough one, which was made even harder by the pandemic.

“People getting evicted and not having any finances and not having employment,” she said.

But for Warfle, helping families reach their potential makes it worth it.

“What they really need is someone to let them know that they are heard, that they are understood, and that they are important, because that’s what we all need,” she said.

About 70 people are living in this hotel-turned shelter.

They have plans in the works for renovations that would allow its capacity to go up to 400 people.

To learn more or donate to The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, click here.

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