A walkthrough of Moore Place, Charlotte’s first real solution to homelessness
Posted on 27 Jan 2012 by Keia Mastrianni
Billy Joe Shaver, 59, spent seven years on the streets of Charlotte, living in makeshift camps, most notably his “semi-permanent” home, a dwelling he constructed out of warehouse pallets and lived in for four years. Shaver managed his basic needs to the best of his ability, despite bouts with mental illness and difficulty managing his medications. He found solace everyday at the Urban Ministry Center, where he would get a hot meal and an occasional shower. It was there that Shaver became acquainted with Joann Markley, case manager for Urban Ministry Center’s Housing Works program providing housing and supportive services to chronic and disabled homeless individuals.
Markley recognized Shaver to be a perfect candidate for the program, which was launched in May 2008 to test the “Housing First” approach, a philosophy that says every person has a fundamental right to housing no matter their condition, physical disability or addiction. Housing First offers permanent supportive housing to the chronically homeless meaning there is no time limit on residency and individuals receive supportive services to assist with their conditions.
Billy Joe Shaver moved into his permanent home September 2010 and still resides there 16 months later. He receives on-going case management and assistance with his mental health appointments, including transportation to pick up his prescriptions, help with paying his bills and regular check-ins by Markley.
Shaver says he was “spellbound” when he was first told that he would no longer have to live on the streets and describes the services he receives as “invaluable.” Today, he enjoys taking a shower whenever he wants, watching television (his favorite show is the Price is Right) and having the ability to wash his clothes on site.
The bigger picture is that Shaver is no longer part of the 10–20% of Charlotte’s chronically homeless who drain 50% of the available resources and valuable tax-payer money. Shaver along with 24 other individuals who participate in the scattered site program (formerly called Homeless to Homes) are a living testament to what homeless people need most, a home. More than that is the combination of a permanent housing option coupled with supportive services.
As Markley puts it, “Chronic homelessness is a different animal, there is a wide chasm of transition, much like culture shock” that must be tended to.
In Charlotte, the issue of homelessness is old hat and the conversational path well-worn. For over a decade now, key organizations and agencies have collaborated, brainstormed, task forced and thrown a myriad of services at Charlotte’s growing issue. Caroline Chambre, Director of Housing Works at the Urban Ministry Center comments on the longstanding problem, “There are great agencies doing good work, but emergency shelter and transitional housing are not a solution for the chronic population.” Overflowing shelters and rising taxpayer costs, despite new services and strategies, are a clear indication of the persistent problem.
Until now, the ultimate solution, a home for the homeless, has been elusive, a white rabbit darting just out of reach. Zoning issues, a weakening economy and political opposition paired with an antiquated perspective that the chronically homeless need to be “housing ready” before they are worthy of housing have contributed to the city’s inability to effect visible change.
On January 29, Moore Place opens to become Charlotte’s first permanent supportive housing complex to use a “Housing First” model and the first in Mecklenburg County to target the chronically homeless. Located off North Graham Street, Moore Place represents an important beginning toward visible change in the city’s housing landscape. More importantly, it is home to 85 previously destitute individuals. The complex sits on a 2-acre lot and boasts 85 individual apartments along with on-site case management where residents will have access to services and a supportive community.
The new development follows a model for housing that has already been implemented successfully in cities such as New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City and Richmond. Data shows that the taxpayer cost reductions are staggering. The average daily cost for an individual housed in a residential unit at Moore Place is $29.50 compared to a night in jail which costs taxpayers $110 per night or a visit to the emergency room which carries a price tag of $1,029 per visit.
Moore Place enters the housing scene nearly six years into Charlotte’s 10-year Plan to End Homelessness which set a goal to have 500 permanent supportive housing units by 2016. Although the development barely scratches the surface of the number proposed in October 2006, Moore Place is the pioneering first step toward the achievement of that goal.
To Caroline Chambre, who has nurtured this project for close to 2 years along with an incredible community of dedicated and talented individuals and organizations, the development of Moore Place gives Charlotte a chance to affirm that homelessness is a solvable problem, that permanent supportive housing is a viable solution worth replicating.
“Housing First honors people for who they are, where they are,” says Chambre. “It is a just and compassionate solution to homelessness. With this approach, chronic homelessness is a solvable problem.”
For the city of Charlotte, Moore Place is revolutionary progress. For Charlotte’s homeless, it is hope.
Moore Place will hold a community open house on Sunday, January 29 from 3:30 to 5 PM. Contact Katie Church at 980−224−9256 for details.