Read our open letter
The Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition is reaching out to you about the increasingly intensifying problem of homelessness in Charlotte, specifically those that are part of the tent city and the emergency of their imminent dispersal on August 5th. The population of the tent city in Uptown Charlotte has grown exponentially right along with the onset of COVID19 and has swelled to more than 150 tents and 200 men, women and even children circulating in and out daily as of one week ago. This growing population is exacerbated by lack of civic services, affordable housing and poor economic circumstances further induced by the pandemic. Dispersing this population is a massive public health issue that will increase the spread of COVID-19, not to mention without a significant housing plan, this places these individuals in danger. Currently, it is next to impossible to receive housing and other assistance despite the presence of large organizations whose missions are to do just that. Additionally, the city-run coordinated entry system and shelter lottery has left many individuals and families hanging in the balance, resulting in people resorting to trying to maintain shelter in low cost motels and extended stay hotels, living on the street or living in tents. While federal initiatives, with the PPP being the largest, have released millions of dollars, some of which is earmarked to go directly to housing opportunities for our cities’ most vulnerable populations, progress is stagnant and stymied at the city and state level in funding private and public initiatives as a direct response to this emergency.
The Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition is comprised of front-line nonprofit organizations that have joined together with a common purpose of housing the homeless by assisting with the production of affordable housing here in Mecklenburg county. Our coalition was formed to directly respond to the tent city, homelessness crisis and lack of affordable housing opportunity and its members have already been individually providing services within this community. Our members have all been sponsoring and assisting this vulnerable population through housing provision where possible and providing basic needs during the pandemic. Services we continue to provide include food, personal care and first aid supplies, community cleanup and sanitation, showers, and survival supplies such as tents, sleeping bags, clothing, and much more.
Through this work we have identified many issues and concerns present, not the least being that there has been no COVID-19 testing, and social distancing. A handwashing station for this large area spanning a few city streets has been added in the last few days. While our greatest desire is to see these neighbors of ours move into supportive housing and shelters, we understand fully that the shelters and facilities available are at maximum capacity and have been so for months. The coordinated entry system is extremely limited and housing vouchers have been unavailable for some time, making social services almost inaccessible. The tent city population is a diverse one and there are many different types of care and assistance that is needed.
For this community to be assisted and serviced effectively, there are immediate needs for the occupants of the
tent city that must be addressed alongside creating housing opportunities which include:
• COVID-19 testing and care resources
• Assistance with retrieving government issued documents needed for the attainment of jobs and housing
(including social security cards, state IDs, birth certificates)
• Job resources and placement assistance
• Immediate care and placement for pregnant women
• Placement for at-risk teens
• Transportation assistance
• Cell phones, WiFi and charging stations
• Hygiene provisions – portable showers, handwashing stations
• Mental health and abuse counseling
• Increased protective police presence
Meeting these needs in conjunction with opening up the housing voucher system and assisting in providing affordable housing not only addresses the immediate emergency of a population of our city living outside in tents but also gives a wrap-around approach to intentionally preventing these circumstances from reoccurring.
Our coalition has a viable emergency plan to house our homeless neighbors, creating immediate results and bringing much needed relief for this community. We request that the city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg fund the organizations that are actively on the ground providing services and fighting the spread of
COVID-19 within this community on a daily basis. We have reached out to several larger organizations in the community that have received substantial funding to assist at this critical time to find that they and their resources that should have been provided are nowhere in sight and their mission statements left unfulfilled. We would like to formally request:
1. The issuance of Emergency Housing Choice Vouchers, Rapid Rehousing Vouchers, and any other vouchers that can be distributed in this county in times of emergency immediately.
2. To be present at the Affordable Housing Task Force weekly meetings.
3. The permission to conduct an emergency Point In Time Count of the homeless in
Mecklenburg County, to be used as formal documentation of homelessness with the goal of vouchering the homeless straight from their tents or the streets which will prevent the spread of COVID-19 using a volunteer force employing social distancing guidelines.
4. We request that the tent communities, other homeless families and individuals not be asked to leave the current locations because we believe displacement will greatly increase the risk of spread of COVID-19 as they have no access to testing.
5. Assistance for occupants needing to access government documentation such as birth certificates, social security cards, and IDs.
6. The vacation of any evictions for non -payment of rent as a direct result of COVID-19
with no arrears due. The evictions scheduled to be processed will cause the population to grow further, create higher incidences of crime and larger COVID-19 spread as families and individuals continue to lose access to proper hygiene and sanitation.
7. The formation of a Landlord-Tenant association to decrease issues that lead to evictions and mitigate a growing eviction rate, providing favorable resolution opportunity.
Empowering our coalition in this plan would directly and swiftly lead to an immediate reduction in homelessness and a suitable, community-led and conclusive solution for the tent city populations and other homeless in the city and county. Additionally, it creates targeted action for funding distribution earmarked specifically for affordable housing and its beneficiaries. It also serves to address growing COVID-19 rates within the city and
county with ongoing success. We thank you for your attention to this matter and to our plan and we look forward to discussing in detail a path forward.
Thank you very much!