By Addie Rising, SHARECharlotte.org, a free, easy and local website that makes it easy to learn about and engage with our local nonprofits.
A few rapped, one danced and another danced with her 3-year-old daughter. It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon and for a little while I think we all forgot where we were and why those young adults were congregated there in the first place.
You see, we were at The Relatives On Ramp Resource Center located Uptown just blocks from the hustle and bustle of the thriving banking world. This resource center provides on-site counseling and other programming for youth and young adults who may be experiencing homelessness and who need some assistance getting on their feet. Some of these kids (yes, they were kids) have aged out of foster care, some have been in jail, some have children of their own. But all are struggling to come up with the basics in life.
Many times when we think of our homeless neighbors we immediately think of adults.
“A huge misconception is that homelessness is only something that affects adults,” said Erica Ellis, Development Officer at The Relatives. “Youth and young adults don’t want to go to the shelters or sleep in the shelters, so many times people think [homelessness] is just an adult problem in Charlotte.”
The Relatives opened its doors in Dilworth 43 years ago as a system of resources to help children and youth find shelter and support. The Dilworth location still operates as a 9-bed facility for children ages 7-17. In addition to the On Ramp Resource Center for young adults aged 16-24, The Relatives also operates Journey Place Transitional Residence for men aged 18-24.
Last year On Ramp served over 850 young adults and approximately 350 children stayed at the crisis center. All facilities, including a hotline which receives calls from all over the country served close to 6,000 youth and young adults.
While no one chooses homelessness, the reality of the situation is especially hard on children. “We’re counseling the kids through this rough situation,” Ellis said. “They didn’t ask to be homeless. They’re having to go through things mentally and physically that most kids don’t have to go through. We’re working on those issues while we get them situated.”
The day I visited, I was welcomed with hugs and smiles and even had a rap dedicated to SHARE Charlotte. It was a pretty cool experience for this not-so-cool mom. I’m sure the cookies I brought with me were largely responsible, but it was nice to feel as though these kids’ day was a little brighter.
Visit SHARE Charlotte to learn more about The Relatives and how you can get involved.
Throughout the month of February, SHARE Charlotte has explored homelessness in Charlotte by looking at the work of some of our nonprofit partners and their volunteers.