Charlotte woman struggling to pay rent after overcoming homelessness
Velda Harper thought she beat the odds. Only to see an eviction notice on her door on year later.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The moment you walk into Velda Harper’s Matthews apartment, it’s apparent she’s all about positivity. Motivational reminders line the walls, words she clings to now more than ever before.
Monday, Velda came home to find an eviction notice on her front door. She wasn’t completely surprised but the reality is still incredibly overwhelming.
“Right now, I am due for August and September and October,” she said.
Velda’s apartment is her sanctuary because she knows what it’s like to not have a place to call home. She was homeless for ten years.
“I stay home so much because I love my space. It’s such a good feeling to know that I have a key to open the door to come in where I’m safe,” she said.
Velda works as a caregiver for the cognitively disabled. But this summer, her hours were cut back and she started to fall behind.
“I was just kind of struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “And I was looking for other jobs. But it’s tough.”
WBTV first told Velda’s story one year ago in the award-winning documentary “No Place to Call Home.” She talked then about how close she was to being homeless again.
“Right now, I’m only a paycheck or maybe half a paycheck away from being in the same situation,” Velda told WBTV in August of 2022.
Unfortunately, Velda was right. And she’s now behind more than $3,000 in rent.
“When I think about my peers and my family,” she said. “I’m embarrassed.”
Velda is not alone in her struggle. This year, Crisis Assistance Ministries tells WBTV the number of households needing immediate intervention to avert eviction is averaging five times the requests they received in fiscal year 2022. The amount of money they’re being asked for is also two to three times higher than they were seeing pre-pandemic.
“Housing instability has been on a concerning rise, driven by multiple factors including rising rent costs, stagnant wages, and the lack of affordable housing. These challenges have left thousands without a strong safety net if faced with an emergency, as one unexpected expense could cause them to become unstable,” Crisis Assistance said in a statement to WBTV.
Rents across Charlotte are also skyrocketing. Velda’s was raised $100 in the last year, which she says feels like $1,000 when finances are tight.
Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham says affordable housing is an issue they tackle daily but he’s quick to call it a marathon, not a sprint. He believes the solution is multi-faceted, and it starts with people being able to make a living wage.
“This goes beyond housing,” he said. “We need jobs that pay higher salaries.”
Velda agrees and would like to be a part of the conversation at the city and county level. That’s why for the second time in 13 months, she’s baring it all and sharing her story.
“I want the city to know this can happen to anyone. We need to do more,” she said. “And I’m open to sitting on any committees, giving my perspective as someone who has actually lived it.”
As for the next few weeks, Velda doesn’t know what to expect. She has an eviction court date scheduled for next week.
But long term, positivity is her only option. She has dreams of starting her own life coaching business called “Velda the Come Back Coach.”
“Six months down the road, I see myself in a better situation,” she said. “Because over these last 16 years in my life I’ve come back from a lot of stuff.”
Copyright 2023 WBTV. All rights reserved.