As Charlotte’s homeless population grows, advocates work toward solutions

CHARLOTTE — More people experiencing homelessness are setting up camp in and around Uptown Charlotte.

Channel 9’s Dan Matics learned about one group living near the Gateway Village, and spoke to an advocate to learn what can be done to help them get housing.

There’s a lot of new development in Uptown Charlotte, and the people who live there say the encampments of people who are unsheltered -- and some of the problems surrounding that -- have become unbearable.

“I’m not trying to harm these unsheltered people. But I think we can help them and the situation,” Ron Crider told Matics.

Crider lives and works in Uptown, and said every day he sees the problems, including crime, that surround the growing homeless population.

“There are people living on both sides of the underpass, there’s trash strown across both sides -- they throw trash down the embankment,” Crider said. “During the summer it reeked of urine and pot. It was a horrible situation.”

He said the issues are out of control in Uptown’s Third and Fourth Ward, and specifically at an underpass on Trade Street at the Gateway Village, a newer development.

On Friday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department cleared tents from encampments in the area of 12th Street and Church Street.

Randall Hitt with Roof Above will be among the first to say Charlotte’s homeless population is growing.

“For a lot of people, especially during COVID, that was new,” Hitt said. “In reality, tent communities have existed. They’ve just been much more hidden.”

A lack of affordable housing, on top of a mental health crisis, is pouring gasoline on the issue.

“The solution to homelessness is housing,” Hitt said. “Housing, housing, housing.”

Roof Above helps provide beds to more than 500 people every night. On Wednesday, the nonprofit will reopen its men’s shelter on Statesville Avenue. The 118 beds there had been relocated to other shelters during renovations.

“While those beds were distributed, that is an option seven days a week,” Hitt said.

As of Dec. 1, Mecklenburg County reported more than 3,000 people are experiencing homelessness. Last month, the Biden Administration said it hopes to address the nationwide issue by expanding the supply of affordable housing and improving ways to prevent homelessness in the first place.

The Lucille Giles Men’s Shelter is a low-barrier, overnight, walk-in shelter located at 3410 Statesville Avenue. Guests are admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The shelter provides a bed, showers, dinner and breakfast 365 days a year and is largely supported through ARPA funding from Mecklenburg County. Between the three shelters, Roof Above offers more than 500 beds for men experiencing homelessness in Charlotte.

>> To learn more, visit roofabove.org.

(WATCH BELOW: 9 Investigates: Searching for affordable housing solutions in the Carolinas)

Dan Matics

Dan Matics, wsoctv.com

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.