“I feel like a human being again”: Homeless organizations seeing an increase in people needing services

Project Outpour is working to provide showers to those experiencing homelessness.
Project Outpour is seeing the number of people it serves increase month-to-month as the homeless population rises.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 7:22 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The latest data from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County shows that more than 2,600 people are experiencing homelessness, a trend that’s continuing to rise month-over-month.

Nonprofits serving the unsheltered community are seeing more people come to them for services, and they’re combining efforts to meet people where they are.

Some take a shower for granted, but it’s something that means the world for others.

“I feel like a human being again,” Jason Southern of Charlotte said. “I feel like I did two years ago.”

Southern is just one of many faces Project Outpour provides services for. The organization said its mission is promoting dignity ‘one shower at a time.’

“Sometimes it might be a week, a couple of days before I take a shower, and I didn’t come from that, I used to take a shower two or three times a day when I had my own house,” Southern said.

Project Outpour is seeing the number of people it serves increase as the homeless population rises. The organization served 45 people in August and September last year, and it’s up this year.

“This year starting in June we started seeing 50, 60 people, July was 75 people, and August was 120 people,” Laura Gorecki, the Chief Dignity Officer of Project Outpour, said.

More than 50 people have used showers in September, on pace to break the August record of 120 people.

Nonprofits say the lack of affordable housing in Charlotte is contributing to homelessness.

“We have a whole list of people who are ready for housing as soon as a unit is available, but affordability, access to vouchers and just getting people through the process into those units has been a real challenge,” Gorecki said.

Southern said it’s hard not being able to shower.

“It’s rough man, people make fun of you, people snicker and say stuff about you when you’re in the store,” he said. “It gets bad enough sometime I don’t want to go into a store, I don’t go places, I don’t go around people.”

In addition to showers, One Charlotte Health Alliance offers health screenings twice a month.

“These are resources they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, not everybody has insurance, not everyone has access to a primary care doctor,” Gorecki said.

“It’s a God-send, it’s a blessing,” Southern added.

Project Outpour is looking to expand their locations across the county as people entering homelessness continues to outpace those exiting homelessness.

Related: Homeless population steadily increasing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg area