Saturday, January 03, 2009

A flood of volunteers turns out
to help the homeless

Erin MacDevette, 7, Debbie Haruta and Debbie's children Grace, 7, and Jonathan, 5, help to convert an idle 12-story building into a homeless shelter.

Three times as many people as expected showed up to repair, paint and clean a former hotel so that it can be a shelter for homeless women and their children.

“This is where we ought to be,” said volunteer Tom Duncan. “Otherwise, we would just be watching football.”

“We can't give financially, so we decided to give our time,” said volunteer Dana Baker.

More than 5,000 people in Charlotte, North Carolina, are homeless on a given night, but there are fewer than 2,000 shelter beds.

The building, which opened as Hotel Barringer in 1940 and featured penthouses and a Swiss chef, had sat empty for about a year.

Starting this week, it will house 20 families. Another 20 will be added each week until all 100 apartments are occupied. Families would stay until June, when they would move into their own permanent homes. Those who remain homeless would move into other shelters.

“I am surprised how many people gave up the day after New Year's Day,” said Connie Echols, a volunteer for A Child's Place, which assists homeless children and raise money for the temporary shelter. “It's not great work. It's yucky.”

Read the Charlotte Observer article here.


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