CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A new men’s shelter in Charlotte is seeing high demand as Mecklenburg County’s homeless population rises amid the pandemic.
Jonathan Coleman sleeps on the top bunk inside his pod at Roof Above’s 164-bed Howard Levine Men’s Shelter in Charlotte.
“It’s a comfortable bed,” Coleman said. “I’m appreciative of it, and I’m grateful for it, because it beats sleeping on the park bench.”
Coleman became homeless after losing his job about three months ago after moving to Charlotte from New York City.
“I slept three weeks in the transit center,” Coleman said. “I had a big suitcase … and $8 in my pocket.”
As of June 2021, 3,137 people in Mecklenburg County were actively experiencing homelessness, which is up 55% from June 2020, according to the county’s State of Housing Instability and Homelessness report.
Roof Above is trying to make life better for residents at its new men’s shelter. It includes a full-service kitchen, washers and dryers and a team of counselors who help guests find a job and permanent housing.
With the help of counselors at the shelter, Coleman says he’s working two jobs in hopes of finding permanent housing to bring his wife and daughter from New York City.
“Everything I think about waking up in the morning is getting an apartment,” Coleman said. “I miss my daughter terribly.”
Coleman says he and other guests at the shelter help uplift each other.
“I would be nowhere without these guys,” Coleman said. “The positive conversations that I got make me want to do better.”
It’s a step up from the overnight shelter Coleman was staying at across the street for a few weeks. He says the Howard Levine Men’s Shelter continues to have a positive impact on his life.
“Sometimes I feel a little down, but this is the hand I’m dealt with so I have to live with it,” Coleman said. “I’m going to a job, I’m working and I’m being productive, so things are going to change.”
Coleman walks down the block every day to patiently wait for a city bus to take him to work.
“I’m going to get a couple more check stubs, and they [counselors] are going to place me somewhere,” Coleman said. “I’m going to an apartment, a place of my own. I want to hold the keys to my apartment.”
Coleman says he plans to move out of the shelter after the holidays.
“Anybody can be homeless – it’s just one check away,” Coleman said. “But I’m grateful that I came into this program … it’s helping me see myself a little bit better and I’m getting better.”
Meanwhile, Roof Above is expanding housing options in Charlotte. The nonprofit is about to complete the renovation of an old 88-unit hotel on Clanton Road to provide permanent, supportive housing for those in need.