CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Mecklenburg County, the Wells Fargo Foundation and the Temple Beth El Religious School are among the contributors to a $20,000 fund to help keep low-income families from being displaced from motels by rising rates during the Democratic National Convention.
The motel fund is part of a multi-tier approach homeless services agencies unveiled Monday in anticipation of as many as 100 families being displaced.
Salvation Army officials say they already had heard from five families that lost lodging, including three that have moved temporarily into the Center of Hope shelter for women and children. Two of those families are headed by single fathers who have been raising their children in motels, officials said.
The plan calls for using the motel fund to keep as many families as possible in their current motels, by either negotiating cheaper rents or supplementing the money paid by the families.
In situations where a deal can’t be worked out, the Urban Ministry Center has revived its winter-time Room in the Inn program, in which congregations offer beds on a rotating basis. Charlotte Family Housing is also part of the effort, along with A Child’s Place and the county’s Community Support Services.
Urban Ministry officials said about 36 congregations have offered to help, including Covenant Presbyterian Church. In all, the program expects to have nearly 800 beds available for families over eight nights.
“We are very grateful that they are so willing to serve when we don’t know very clearly what to expect,” said Dale Mullennix of the Urban Ministry. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
The Center of Hope created additional bed space for 10 families in its Boys & Girls Club meeting rooms. The agency will also act as a transportation hub, helping the children get to and from Charlotte Mecklenburg schools.
Annabelle Suddreth, executive director of A Child’s Place, noted that her agency served 2,200 children last year and 170 of the families lived in motels at some point during the year.
She said the goal of the motel fund is to avoid disrupting the lives of as many children as possible. A variety of businesses, congregations and individuals contributed to the fund, which will also pay for transportation, food and staff needed to tend the families’ shelter needs.
“Ninety percent of these families don’t have their own transportation, so the impact is that the children miss school,” said Suddreth. “This (plan) is how the community is coming together for these families. No one agency or group is in charge. It’s truly a community effort.”
She added that the agencies do not begrudge the motels for raising their rates. In fact, she said, out of 30 hotels known to host families served by A Child’s Place, only 10 are raising rates for those families.
“They are simply doing their job. The convention was touted as a way for people to make money,” she said.