I had good reason to travel to what used to be called the Urban Ministry and Men’s Shelter, off N Tryon yesterday. You see, I was on a mission, so to speak, to collect some food items for our LHCC ministry, that the renamed Roof Above were seeking to donate, but that’s another long story for another blogpost. My GPS had me locked in on the correct address. As I drew nearer I was shocked to see what I saw on both sides of the road. Charlotte’s thriving tent city. As I proceeded, I missed my turn … because I was thinking, “my destination surely can’t possibly be down there”. This is my way of stating that I lost my concentration and thought for a brief 90 seconds car ride that I was once again in a third world African country. Back to the task at hand, I’m in the Queen City, and looking for the now hidden and seemingly distant Roof Above.
A very recent WCNC article reported ‘There are places in the third world where refugee camps are more habitable’. It’s not that simple because I know that many organizations and kind folks are helping our cities citizens, like our friends at Roof Above. Their world also turned upside down in March when people showed up along with the thousands of food packages gifted by kind neighbors. Quoting the WCNC report “What’s more a local property owner has filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The lawsuit alleges the city and county are herding homeless into tent cities that line the sidewalks, rights-of-way. It also goes on to read that the tents have crept onto private properties and parking lots along North Tryon Street.”
My point of this blog is that it’s hard to believe we’re in Charlotte, NC. While there is reportedly capacity in vacant Roof Above facilities and temporary room housing available, many of our unfortunate neighbors apparently still choose to stay in encamped in tent city. Barriers to entry into a temporary facility include COVID screening, behavioral restrictions and curfews, seemingly hurdles not low enough. There is no mass exodus from tent to housing, even with the promise of heat and utilities.
Maybe there is truth to the sentiment that your future is determined, not by your DNA code, but by your zip code. President Obama, once claimed “In this country, of all countries, a person’s zip code shouldn’t decide their destiny.”
If you need a road trip and have never seen tent city, not on TV, but live, right outside your car window, go take a drive to Roof Above, at 945 N College Street and see tent city for yourself. I am confident you’ll come away with more questions than answers. Oh, and trust your GPS and keep your eyes peeled. Count your blessings and thank the Lord you have a roof over your head this day. Thousands, not 10 miles from you, are not so fortunate tonight.
Executive Director, LHCC