As a VISTA Volunteer, I work on events for the development team at the Urban Ministry Center, and I am usually tucked away in an office with spreadsheets and press releases. But every morning during check in, I get the chance to be with our neighbors, and to be reminded of the purpose of all the fundraising we do in development. I cherish my morning duty signing people in to take showers as it gives me a quick opportunity to greet the neighbors I know and to meet new faces. I love these interactions, but they are brief. I know neighbors by their names and their smiles, but the minute it takes me to write their name down on a slip doesn’t give me long enough to know their stories.
HousingFest, a concert to end homelessness, will be held on March 11, featuring St. Paul & The Broken Bones at The Fillmore Charlotte. HousingFest raises money for UMC’s HousingWorks program. The HousingWorks program gives chronically homeless individuals a safe, affordable home, and wrap around support to help them stay housed in our complex Moore Place or in Scattered Site apartments. The concert is a great opportunity to give to a worthy cause and to learn more about the Urban Ministry Center. Another such opportunity is HousingFest Unplugged. HousingFest Unplugged is a UMC event at Triple C Brewing Company featuring performances by Reeve Coobs and Justin Fedor with $1 from every beer sold being donated to support HousingWorks. In addition to events and the concert itself, sharing the stories of the people who work at the Urban Ministry Center, and the people we serve is an important way we spread our message.
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to collect these stories, and to learn a bit more about the people I work with every day.
When I sat down to speak with staff, it became clear that they were not just speaking about a job, but a passion and a mission. Both staff members I spoke with expressed that they hated not having the resources necessary to serve everyone, and emphasized that the lack of affordable housing is a problem that affects the whole community.
The imagery of some of the stories I heard from those affected by the scarcity of housing was at times shocking, the cold steel of a knife pressed to a throat, blood from head to toe, or icicles hanging from eyelashes after a cold night without appropriate shelter. Hearing a story like that is very affecting, but what is even more affecting is getting to know the people telling them. In speaking to neighbors and former neighbors I got to hear not just about their trials, but their triumphs, their interests and passions. I also got to learn what housing meant to them and how being housed helps them to pursue their passions. In our conversations we talked about soccer, music, volunteering, puzzles, and advocacy work. I got to know some pretty spectacular people. You can too. One such person is Eric, who after seven years on the street, has found a home in our HousingWorks program. I hope you’ll join us in supporting Eric and all the tenants in HousingWorks by coming to our events and sharing our stories.