CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte man who has been homeless in the past is providing input on a five-year plan to help end homelessness.

James Lee is part of the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy, which involves public, private and nonprofit sectors.

What You Need To Know

  • A joint effort aims to help prevent homelessness in the Charlotte area

  • The 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homeless Strategy is developing a five-year plan

  • James Lee, a community advocate and a person who has experienced homelessness, is part of the group

Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer of Bank of America, and Eugene A. Woods, president and chief executive officer of Atrium Health, are leading this effort.

The group will produce a comprehensive plan to address housing instability and homelessness in Charlotte. According to Mecklenburg County, on a single night in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, there are 3,000 people experiencing homelessness.

Nonprofit organizations, including Roof Above and United Way of Central Carolinas, are part of the group.

“For us to address homelessness, we have to continue to address the lack of affordable housing in this community,” Roof Above CEO Liz Clasen-Kelly said.

Lee is a community advocate who plans community engagement events and connects people in need to resources. He said he experienced homelessness on and off since his divorce in 2002.

“I was doing OK for a little while, but then I was working for a church and then ... things just started ... getting behind because I started losing myself ... in my troubles and like I started giving up,” Lee said.

He said he turned to drugs to hide the pain and lived in a Charlotte park for 11 months. He remembers sleeping on a bench in the dugout of the baseball field.

“This was my safe haven,” Lee said.

In November 2018, a few years after his mother passed away, he decided to turn his life around.

“I found my purpose here, you know, even through the darkness,” Lee said.

He lived in transitional housing before sharing an apartment with a friend and her children.

Lee, who works for the Queens University’s Stan Greenspan Center for Peace and Social Justice as an affordable housing advocate, opened his own business earlier this year.

“For a lot of folks, all their needs aren't met, you know, and it's just not fair,” Lee said.

He looks forward now to help craft a plan to help end homelessness in the area.

“It’s exciting because I have an opportunity to speak first and folks that I care about,” Lee said.

Lee has ideas to increase affordable housing. His main goal is to help the group look beyond the data.

“I want you to see me with your heart. I want you to see me as a human being in all your discussions,” Lee said.

The 60-year-old is doing this work for the community in honor of his late mother.

“I want to honor what she gave me,” Lee said. "I want to honor her faith in me, in her son.”

The group will release a five-year plan to help end homelessness in October.