A day of hope, healing, love for homeless neighbors

On Saturday at Northside Baptist Church, a community collaboration of churches, barbers, nonprofits and cops united to help dozens of our neighbors who are moving through homelessness.

“In this area on Sugar Creek, we see all of the people who are unhoused and in need of all these services all the time,” said Jenna Knox, of Northside Baptist Church. “We as the church are called to serve our community and called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Knowing this community outreach day was going require collaboration, a number of community organizations came together to provide a variety of services.

“The partnership (exists) to be able to care for these people in our community, so that we can make our community better, we can love on people the way that we’re supposed to,” Knox said.

Two mobile shower facilities, Leah’s Hopes and Dreams and Project Outpour, provided shower access to give the homeless guests a fresh start to their day.

Hopping in the shower is something most do without a thought.

But for people with no place to call home, they often need to clean themselves in a bathroom at a gas station or wherever they can find a sink with running water.

40 year-old Antonio Mayes has been living in his car for the past year. Unable to find affordable housing, he faces daily challenges such as where to find a meal, where to sleep and when his relief from homelessness will come.

“Being able to come here today is just like taking a breath from life,” Mayes said. “I haven’t been able to feel this in a long time, and now I’m getting a few hours of bliss before I go back into the war zone.”

In Charlotte, there is unseen homelessness hiding in hotels, motels and, as in Mayes’ case, vehicles.

“It’s really hard living like this. People prejudge me but they don’t know my situation,” Mayes said. “Being able to come here for one day is, you know, (a) breath of fresh air.”

Local barbers set up on the Northside campus to give haircuts and trim beards.

Atrium Health did blood pressure, glucose and other health screenings for interested guests, and attendees were able to shop in the clothes closet for shirts, pants, shoes and clothing accessories.

“We want to be the place and be a beacon in this community where people can come and find hope and find shelter,” Knox said.

The “Just Do It Movement” worked with those guests who needed assistance replacing lost government documents.

Po Boy’s Low Country Seafood Market supplied a hot lunch for the guests.

Esther’s Heart made sure each guest left with a backpack with enough food essentials to last a week.

Over the course of this week, volunteers identified several homeless encampments in four different areas of town. Those areas include Hidden Valley, Uptown, Statesville Avenue and Albemarle Road.

Stonebridge Church provided transportation for homeless residents from the encampments to Northside and back.

“People are not getting enough love out here. We need more love,” Mayes said. “As Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.’”

At the end of the four-hour event, relationships had begun, smiles had been shared and a commitment was made by the organizers to make this a regular event.

“It has been awesome to be part of this peacefully, pure joy,” Knox said.

Mayes walked to his car and loaded in some food and clothes. Freshly shaved and showered, he was heading back to get through another day of homelessness.

“I shared some of this food with (another) homeless man because he looked like he was going through a pretty rough time,” Mayes said.

Joining Northside Baptist Church for the outreach day was Project Outpour, Hearts Beat as One, Leah’s Hopes and Dreams, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Roof Above, Ada Jenkins Center, The Park Church, Just Do It Movement, StoneBridge Church Community, Master Kutz Barber & Beauty, Esther’s Heart for Transformation Ministry, Faith CME Church and Po Boy’s Lowcountry Seafood.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.