by: Sarah Lively, web producer Updated:CHARLOTTE —
It was 2009. David Heath had just been laid off from his job at a barbecue restaurant due to chronic back and knee pain. His mother had just died of breast cancer, and he found himself homeless, living on the streets of uptown Charlotte.
Heath said he was in the lowest position of his life; then he met Charlotte Bobcats Chief Operating Officer Fred Whitfield.
Heath was standing outside of Time Warner Cable Arena in 2009, asking a local reporter if they knew of any agencies for homeless people. The reporter was set to do an interview with Whitfield. When Whitfield walked out he overheard Heath’s story. He offered him two tickets to the game that night.
Whitfield also gave Heath his business card, and told him to stay in touch. Heath said nearly five years later he still has the business card Whitfield gave him.
Heath’s journey was tough. During his three years of homelessness, Heath says he lived under bridges, in homeless missions and on the streets. He says his life took a turn in late August 2012, when he began attending Fancy Hill Baptist Church in Dallas, N.C., and met his fiancée.
Heath began working with Pastor Willie Eastor, and formed a homeless ministry in fall 2012.
The church van drives uptown every Sunday morning to pick up homeless. The church has provided them with clothes and meals. Since this started, Heath said three or four of the homeless men who attended have gotten jobs, found a place to live and still attend the church.
Heath’s fiancée drops him off uptown on occasion so he can talk to the homeless.
“I walk streets and talk to homeless about the love of the Lord,” said Heath.
While uptown, sometimes he will go by Bobcats Arena. He formed relationships with two employees in the Bobcats team store, and when possible, he will stop by to say hello. On some occasions he has been offered tickets to the games.
“In the last three years I’ve been to 20 or 21 games, half of them sitting in the lower bowl,” Heath said. “[It makes me] feel like I’m rich.”
As Heath maintained relationships with Bobcats employees, he began to tell them about the organization he started. Last Saturday night, Heath was given 30 tickets to the Bobcats game for his ministry. Heath took his nephew and a group of local teens, and said he talked to them about staying out of trouble.
“Me and my fiancée sit down for dinner every night. We bless the ones who have blessed us. We always say thank you for the Bobcats,” Heath said.
As he continues his ministry, Heath would like to open two houses for homeless -- one for men and one for women – to get them off the streets.
Heath will also be cheering the Bobcats on Sunday night as their playoff series opens against the Miami Heat. He did not know if he would attend any of the playoff games, but no matter his location, he will be cheering for the Bobcats.