Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter and Men’s Shel­ter of Char­lotte to merge

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Encore - BY TEO AR­MUS tar­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Two of Char­lotte’s largest non­prof­its that ad­dress home­less­ness will merge into one or­ga­ni­za­tion later this year, with a height­ened fo­cus on af­ford­able hous­ing, they an­nounced Wed­nes­day. As rent prices sky­rocket in Meck­len­burg County amid an un­prece­dented de­vel­op­ment boom, the Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter and the Men’s Shel­ter of Char­lotte will have a louder voice as one non­profit, said Liz Clasen-Kelly, who will over­see the new or­ga­ni­za­tion. Clasen-Kelly, who cur­rently over­sees the Men’s Shel­ter, said ris­ing rents have made it harder and more ex­pen­sive for her or­ga­ni­za­tion to find sta­ble hous­ing for her home­less clients. And even as af­ford­able hous­ing has taken cen­ter stage on Char­lotte’s pol­icy agenda, she said, a fix for the poor­est res­i­dents in Char­lotte is of­ten left out of the con­ver­sa­tion. “This com­bined agency will fo­cus on the so­lu­tions so that some­one on a dis­abil­ity check, some­one earn­ing $8 an hour, still has a place to call home,” she said. The ser­vices of­fered on a day-to-day ba­sis by each or­ga­ni­za­tion will re­main in place through the merger in May, as will the or­ga­ni­za­tions’ phys­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, about three blocks from each other off North Tryon Street. Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter op­er­ates a day cen­ter, con­ducts street out­reach and runs sub­stance abuse re­cov­ery pro­grams, with a fo­cus on hous­ing peo­ple who are chron­i­cally home­less, par­tic­u­larly those with health is­sues. The Men’s Shel­ter of­fers em­ploy­ment ser­vices and runs two fa­cil­i­ties with about 400 beds to­tal. Dale Mul­len­nix, who will re­tire in May as di­rec­tor of the Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter, said that, be­sides more con­cen­trated ser­vices, the larger non­profit will also be able to have greater in­flu­ence on city­wide dis­cus­sions. The city is hop­ing to raise $100 mil­lion — half of it from bonds that vot­ers ap­proved in Novem­ber — for an af­ford­able hous­ing push. “What we’d like to do is put our voices to­gether so that we have a big­ger seat at the ta­ble,” Mul­len­nix said, “in or­der to have a big­ger im­pact into how de­ci­sions are made in the com­mu­nity.” Un­der his lead­er­ship, the or­ga­ni­za­tion launched Moore Place, a sup­port­ive hous­ing com­plex with on-site so­cial work­ers, nurses and a psy­chi­a­trist. It also pushed for steady liv­ing con­di­tions, point­ing to re­sults that show hous­ing the chron­i­cally home­less over­whelm­ingly led to other pos­i­tive out­comes: Among those served by its hous­ing-first strat­egy, emer­gency room vis­its went down by 81 per­cent and time in jail de­creased by 91 per­cent. Clasen-Kelly, who worked un­der Mul­len­nix be­fore tak­ing the helm of the men’s shel­ter in 2016, said that she hopes to pre­serve the Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter’s data-in­formed ap­proach. But more than any­thing, she said she’s ex­cited for the ideas that will come from one larger, more co­or­di­nated ef­fort. “I lit­er­ally wake up ev­ery day ask­ing, ‘How do we end home­less­ness?’”

DIEDRA LAIRD Ob­server file photo

Peo­ple line up to get food and shel­ter on a cold evening at the Ur­ban Min­istry Cen­ter.

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