Every Thursday afternoon, a group of people meets in the common room of Moore Place; they all have different stories and paths that brought them to the group but they all share the same passion to fight homelessness. These people form the advocacy group, Helping Homeless to Housing (HHH). HHH is a community meeting facilitated by volunteers Angie Forde and Beth Wells, and Moore Place social worker Robert Nesbit, dedicated to helping those who are still struggling with homelessness through advocacy and education. The weekly meetings are open to anyone. While there are about 10 regulars, I have seen new faces in the group each time I have attended and not all of the regulars live in Moore Place.
There is Melanie who, in 2010, was living in a camp. After a near death experience, she made her way through a series of agencies in Charlotte before finding her place a Moore Place. She now attends CPCC in pursuit of a degree in Criminal Justice Technology. HHH is a way for her to share her experiences and thoughts with people who have also struggled through homelessness and to show those still struggling, that they can win their battle.
And Carlotta. Five years ago, Carlotta was a drug addict who felt like no cared about what happened to her. Now sober, she said she feels like she has overcome all the hurdles and can continue to do so. After finding housing at Moore Place, Carla joined HHH when she felt her heart go out to those she saw still living on Tryon Street and the other streets of Charlotte—HHH gives her the means to help those people.
Kenneth suffered tragic losses that pushed him towards homelessness, drugs, depression, and attempted suicide. He has been able to overcome the obstacles life threw at him and involved himself in HHH where he is able to help others end their fight against homelessness.
HHH offers Phil something that had not been in his life before. The group is something Phil can be a part of and find belonging and accountability in.
Both Solomon and Justin have been a part of HHH since the group met at the public library (when it was called Homeless Helping Homeless), then at UMC, and finally at Moore Place. HHH has changed its approach multiple times throughout the years but has always been aimed at fighting homelessness. Solomon first joined the group as way to earn money and bus passes; in its early days, HHH members could clean public schools for $50 a school or clean North Tryon for 10 bus passes. As HHH developed, it began to focus on giving its members and the rest of Charlotte’s homeless population the ability to act upon their right to vote. Today, HHH has broadened its focus to political activism and education with the ultimate goal of creating more affordable housing in Charlotte. Justin knew that to get back into housing, he would have to understand the political system that makes returning to housing so difficult for so many people—HHH continues to provide him with the chance to learn more about the system and the opportunity to change the system. Solomon, along with many of the other regulars, values HHH for its political involvement within the Charlotte community.
Justin and Solomon are consistent participators in the events the group attends. Members of HHH recently attended Moral Monday and West Fest. Moral Monday is a weekly protest in reaction to the changes in North Carolina’s politics and West Fest was a community event held to highlight Charlotte’s west side. Recently, the group also wrote letters to the politicians running for Charlotte’s City Council encouraging them not to repeal the exemption given to developers who build housing for the elderly and disabled in the Housing Locational Policy. HHH has already received multiple responses to their letters. HHH is also responsible for an annual memorial vigil that honors and remembers those who died on the streets. The group and its members give a voice to those who fought and are still fighting homelessness. They not only taught me about the political side of homelessness but also showed me what it really means to give back. The members of HHH were successful in escaping homelessness but do not see their end of homelessness as the most important end—Melanie, Carlotta, Kenneth, Phil, Solomon, and Justin along with the all the others want to make Charlotte, and the world, a place where no one has to experience the challenges of homelessness.
HHH ends each meeting with a closing prayer written by Melanie that I think sums up everything the group stands: Grant us the serenity to climb this mountain of political and personal prejudices and fears. Give the wisdom to follow you, God, by helping our sisters and brothers regain their self-respects and freedom one step to one home at a time.