Helping Charlotte’s homeless

Teens & Twenties writer Briona Kiser and her fellow students at UNC-Charlotte collected items for the homeless during the holidays. / Briona Kiser, Times-News correspondent

Commentary by Briona Kiser
Times-News correspondent

   While driving through Alamance County, what will you see? Leftover Christmas lights, “Trump 2016″ signs, and probably some Panthers flags. Now consider this: what do you see but choose to overlook?
This list likely includes litter laying on the side of Highway 87, a chained dog in your neighbor’s yard, and the homeless man walking under the bridge on Church Street. Many of these attributes are true statewide.
Here are some painfully sobering facts. According to the Carolina Population Center (CPC), in 2014 Alamance County had 144 homeless people, while Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) had more than 2,400, making up roughly 20 percent of North Carolina’s homeless population.
Furthermore, 12 percent of this population is made up of veterans, and 30 percent is children. To put this into perspective, 8 to 10 students in your daughter’s 4th grade classroom could be homeless. With this in mind, consider what can be done to help.
At UNC-Charlotte, a leadership group, Emerging Leaders, decided to help. This group in particular “graduated” the program in April 2015, but some members, myself included, got back together in order to help the Charlotte homeless community.
Among this group of consistently broke, hungry college students, dozens of winter items were collected to distribute to the Charlotte homeless community. This collection included coats, hats, gloves, scarves, ponchos, umbrellas, water bottles and socks. The items were delivered to different parts of Uptown Charlotte, from bridges beside the men’s shelter all the way to Tryon Street — anywhere showing an abundance of homelessness.
Attached to these items were tags which said,”I am not lost. If you are stuck in the cold, take me to keep warm.” This gift-giving idea was found on Facebook via posts of others doing the same, and after reviewing the homeless statistics in Charlotte, it was decided that this group could make a large impact on the community, as well. Many of the items distributed in Uptown were from donations or small purchases.
For example, at Goodwill you can purchase a coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf for $10 total, and those items can help four people. Similarly, other items were donated from families who would otherwise send their old winter clothes to Goodwill, or dollar store purchases of socks or ponchos.
There is always something to be done to help. Whether you can afford to lay a poncho beside a bus stop or buy the entire stock of scarves from Goodwill, any donation will mean the world to those who have nothing.

 Briona Kiser is a sophomore at UNC-Charlotte and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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