Each day, Urban Ministry Center serves around 500 people in Charlotte experiencing homeless and extreme poverty, providing basic services and strategies to help people end their homelessness.
Lowering Barriers to Service
Our services are specifically designed with no, or very low, barriers to getting help. For instance, our soup kitchen feeds anyone who comes along without asking a single question or action of people. Individuals are not required to participate in a program, say a prayer or provide any personal information. Low barriers often enable us to build relationships with some of the most guarded, untrusting people in our community.
This approach has put us in a unique position to work with the chronically homeless population (people with disabilities and extensive lengths of homelessness) who are not usually seen, and sometimes completely unknown to other agencies in Charlotte.
Involving the Community
All of our basic services include a volunteer component and UMC relies heavily on the community to help us serve people experiencing homelessness. These services and volunteers create a foundation of relationships and a caring community to help end homelessness for our neighbors.
UMC considers community to be the key in solving the problems of homelessness. This has been a goal since our inception 20 years ago. Engaging the community in providing these services creates an understanding that’s hard to develop without first-hand knowledge. It also builds community for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. An unpaid volunteer who cares about helping you always carries more weight than someone whose “job” may be the motivation. Neighbors begin to see that their community does care about them. And the community begins to understand that being homeless is just a situation, and our neighbors often lack the personal network of support or resources necessary to change their situation.
Using Best Practice
In response to gaps in services for the chronically homeless, UMC has adopted the Housing First model that provides permanent, affordable housing with supports to people without any expectations. After meeting the criteria (a scientific tool assessing vulnerability to dying on the streets), tenants are provided with a case manager to help them sort through their often complicated challenges including substance abuse, mental health issues and medical problems. This overwhelmingly results in great outcomes for the tenants and a great savings in community dollars (with significantly decreased reliance on crisis services like the ER, hospital stays, detox and jail).
Focusing on 4 Outcomes
All of our programs focus on achieving the following outcomes for our neighbors experiencing homelessness:
Increase access to and retention of affordable housing, with other supports
Increase access to income
Increase access to mental and physical health care, and reduce substance abuse
Increase community engagement around issues of homelessness