Housing the Homeless
MOORE PLACE When it opens, the eighty-five units will house the chronically homeless.
Kathy Izard thought someone here should start a program offering permanent housing to the homeless. Then she thought, "Why not me?"
Graphic designer Kathy Izard had volunteered at the Urban Ministry Center for fifteen years when an inspirational speech by a former homeless man changed her life.
"All that good we do in a day," she says of meals, showers, and other services provided for the city's 6,500 homeless people, "but we lock them out to the bad at night. I tried not to think about what happened to them. They're sleeping under the bridges."
She was haunted by the speaker's stories and knew many people in his shoes. Though the city has up to 1,000 temporary shelter beds (the exact number depends on the season), there was still a great need for permanent housing for the chronically homeless.
With others at the center, Izard researched successful housing models in New York City, Philadelphia, and other cities. The key was to have a caseworker help new residents stay healthy and find income. Why didn't someone here start something? Then she thought, "Why not me?"
Izard's graphic design firm is now closed and she's at the helm of UMC's Homeless to Homes. First she created a pilot with thirteen clients in an apartment building. She learned taxpayers benefit because housing keeps those clients out of jail cells and hospitals. She learned the pilot cost about $30 per night per resident, compared with a $110 jail stay or a $1,029 ER visit. And most important, residents received drug treatment, found work, or secured such benefits as food stamps and Medicaid. Those who have income pay rent.
Now Izard, forty-six, has rallied a team to create an eighty-five-unit apartment complex. David Furman has donated architectural services. Volunteer Matt Wall led the search for land and UMC has an option on two acres in North Charlotte. Joann Markley is the case manager, and the C.D. Spangler Foundation has committed $500,000. Hugh McColl III, Jerri Licari, and Bill Holt are leading the effort to raise the total needed: $10 million.
"I answered a call," Izard says. "If I'd known how hard it was going to be, I'm not sure I would have picked up the phone. But getting up every morning under a bridge is a lot harder than doing this."
Big Idea"We have to have units available all over Charlotte so people can live near employment opportunities," she says, "and to achieve this, all districts need to work together to create a citywide locational housing policy."
Photo: MOORE PLACE When it opens, the eighty-five units will house the chronically homeless.