Jewel Richey is one of the Shelter’s many success stories. She’s also a Shelter employee. She became homeless in California when her full-time job was reduced to part-time and her renter moved out. “At that point, I couldn’t afford the rent on my own. My landlord was trying to work with me, but I was getting further and further behind.”
I am a 19 year old mother of two small children. Me and my children had always lived with my parents. After a long period of family disputes with my unstable parents, I was finally told I could no longer stay in my childhood home with my children.
I am a disabled veteran and Charlotte native. I grew up in a middle class family that was very loving. I did not “want for much” and had all my needs met. After becoming disable during my service in the Marines, I began to drink heavily and on top of my pain medications.
I am a single mom with 3 kids, and I have worked every day of my life to provide for my family. I am working at a dry cleaners for minimum wage and it is so hard to pay for everything. I lost my apartment because I got behind on my rent and even though my landlord let me slide by, I could never catch up. (The apt was too expensive for my income to start with).
An army wife for 14 years, Susan worked erratically in the early years of her marriage. Not just overseas for deployments, the family of six also moved repeatedly within the United States for her husband’s career. And then the downward spiral began.
Like other residents at the Union County Community Shelter, Ron, 52, hit a string of bad luck. And the economy didn’t help. Originally from Pennsylvania, he’s lived 30 years in North Carolina, primarily doing vehicle paint and body work in Jacksonville. When his girlfriend in Union County developed cancer, he moved here to help take care of her until her death and worked in construction, mold remediation and renovation. Then the work dried up.
In 2011, Donald McCree, a disabled veteran and Charlotte native, entered the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program through the Veteran’s Administration in Salisbury, NC.
The Shelter operates a soup kitchen daily, inviting anyone who needs a hearty meal to come with no questions asked. Some have places to stay; others live in the woods. Most are men, although a couple of women come each night. Each has his own story.
Todd, 43, was a first time soup kitchen visitor, having found himself homeless just three days before he arrived on one cold night. He had difficulty eating the hearty meal for fear he would become sick after so long without food. “Hopefully, they’ll let me stay here tonight,” he said, after spending the last three nights in the woods. “I froze my butt off. I’m at my bottom; it’s pretty bad,” he said, a dejected look on his face. “Got to make something happen . . . it’ll happen. Got to keep my head up, that’s the only thing I can do.” He planned to use the Internet at the library to contact friends who might send him enough money for a bus ticket to go back home to Arizona.
Billy, 49, has worked as an independent painter for approximately 30 years. “With the economy as it is, sometimes jobs are hard to come by,” he says. Currently living with a friend who he pays room and board, “I come here for meals a lot of times if I’m working close by. “Sometimes during the week, I don’t make enough to pay bills and buy groceries. This place really helps me a lot; it helps a lot of folks like myself who work, but sometimes the money is just not enough to get by. Even if you do have a job, it’s still a good help.” When food is available to take home, Billy is grateful. “It helps me eat.” A regular for two years, he says, “Pride might get in your way to start with, but it’s OK.”
James, 56, works as a contract newspaper carrier and been able to pay rent for many years. He comes each day for meals, calling the fellowship with other visitors as important as the hot meals. Because his work has recently been cut in half, he’s looking for additional work to supplement his income.
Robert, 57, is a regular visitor to the soup kitchen, visiting almost every night and sometimes for lunch. He’s lived in the woods in a tent for about 15 years. After all those years, Robert appears philosophical about his situation. Yes, it’s cold, he says, but “you pile on the blankets. I keep my jacket on if it’s cold, sometimes I sleep with my shoes on if it’s really cold.” Although he receives $200 in food stamps each month, “that doesn’t last a month, not even for one person. We make a fire, me and another guy, sometimes we cook, but most times we come here.” The soup kitchen “is real important,” he says. “I know I can always get something to eat here.”
© Union County Community Shelter | 311 East Jefferson Street, Monroe, NC 28112-4825 | (704) 289-5300
Crafted by: Big Ring