Roof Above: A Growing Continuum of Services to End Homelessness

Roof Above, formerly Urban Ministry Center and Men's Shelter of Charlotte, is an interfaith organization dedicated to bringing the community together to end homelessness, one life at a time. Roof Above carries out this mission by providing a continuum of services for people experiencing homelessness—from street outreach and basic services to emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing. 

A shortage of 23,060 affordable housing units (for people at 30% area median income or AMI) and rising rents means that homelessness continues to expand in Charlotte. As of March 31, there are 3,298 people experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County. Serving more than 1,200 people each day, Roof Above’s programs, resources, staff and volunteers are the housing safety net for these individuals.

Roof Above believes housing is the solution to homelessness, and the nonprofit has worked in multiple ways to create innovative housing solutions for Charlotte’s most vulnerable neighbors in need. In early 2020, Roof Above partnered with Mecklenburg County to create two new housing programs—one focused on those who are working, and one targeting seniors who are disabled and on extended waiting lists for appropriate subsidized housing. Roof Above purchased a 341-unit apartment complex with generous support from the community to preserve affordable housing and provide 75 units of permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness. Most recently, Roof Above also purchased a hotel that will be converted into 88 studio apartments for disabled and chronically homeless individuals. 

Roof Above’s vision is for homelessness to become rare, brief and non-repeatable for everyone. Roof Above’s work will continue through creating innovative solutions to homelessness and raising a more impactful voice in the community to elevate efforts to end homelessness. 

Serving in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought extraordinary changes for everyone these last 14 months, and, while Roof Above has been affected like all other organizations, closing was never an option. Homelessness became increasingly visible in our community with large encampments formed near uptown. Those experiencing homelessness struggled to maintain good health, secure resources like food and cleaning supplies and many in housing have been unable to pay rent because of job loss. In response, Roof Above creatively altered how services are being delivered and looked for partnerships to ensure critical shelter and outreach remain available. 

Currently, homeless services are stretched across seven campuses due to the pandemic. During non-pandemic times, Roof Above offers two year-round emergency shelters and Room In the Inn, a community-based winter shelter. In addition, Roof Above operates a Day Services Center 365 days per year to meet basic needs including shelter, showers, laundry, mail services and meals for people who are unsheltered. Roof Above has temporarily closed its Tryon Street shelter, leased two motels and an unused college dormitory and is operating an overflow winter shelter. Roof Above is also helping to manage three hotel-based shelters. Through these efforts, Roof Above is now able to offer a total of 736 emergency shelter beds, nearly a 50% increase over last year.

Bringing the Community Together

Roof Above understands that ending homelessness cannot be done alone. Community engagement and volunteerism remain rooted throughout Roof Above’s continuum of services as it did for its predecessor organizations, Urban Ministry Center and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. While COVID-19 has changed the way Roof Above can engage, there remain many ways to support Roof Above’s work. Offering financial and in-kind resources, learning more about the issues the nonprofit addresses and sharing your voice to amplify our mission are all critical to the organization’s success. Once on-site volunteerism resumes, individuals will have many opportunities to join Roof Above to help deliver services.

For more information or to donate, visit RoofAbove.org or find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn (@RoofAbove).

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