Each year Nych Group coordinates a community service project. This year we chose to volunteer to help with a problem that is close to home, the Tent Cities of Charlotte on North Tryon and College Street. The idea was sparked when Denise, the co-owner of Nych Group, read an article about Tent City that was posted by the Charlotte Agenda. The article exposed that hundreds of our neighbors were homeless, hungry, and living in tents. Denise is a firm believer in investing in her employees as well as her community, so as soon as she read the article, the ideas started to flow.
Denise pitched the radical idea of going into the tent cities to hand out care packages and food in an effort to help and really try to get to know our community a little better, face to face. Although we were in the midst of a pandemic, all of us were happy to help where we could. After a little research, we realized that we were more of a danger to the homeless than they were to us. We made sure to stock up on hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks in order to prepare for the big day and not spread any of our germs to the homeless.
Jessica, the leader of The Hearts for the Invisible Charlotte Coalition, was the person to who we reached out first. She ended up being the most vital resource that we had. Jessica was able to guide us on what was needed in the tent cities so that every care package really counted. We supplied 120 care packages that each had socks, gloves, a hat, an assortment of batteries, flashlights with batteries, laundry detergent, a tarp, a padlock, pain medicine, allergy medicine, and a pillowcase. We also supplied 50 pizzas that we passed out by hand. Because Jessica spends most of her time running her nonprofit that is dedicated to helping the citizens of Tent City, she was able to tour us around all of the areas where people needed the packages and food most.
When we made our trip to Tent City on a Wednesday afternoon, we were ready for anything. What we experienced was eye-opening. The need was vast, but the people were so kind. Everyone we came in contact with was grateful to be receiving the extra supplies and warm pizza. Some were eager to talk about their life, history, ambitions, and goals. It was refreshing for some to be able to be vulnerable and speak to someone without judgment or expectations and truly be heard. We were so moved by some of the stories that one of our coworkers, Lori, even gave the shoes right off her feet.
Many people believe that homelessness is due to a series of bad choices that people have made, that they were or still are on drugs, or that they have simply not accepted government assistance that is available to them. Although this may be true in some circumstances, we found through listening to people’s stories that not everyone’s road to Tent city was the same. Mental illness, childhood trauma, recession, and socioeconomic disadvantages have all played major roles in many patrons of Tent City’s lives. Thankfully, some people we spoke to were able to make it out of Tent City with a little help and were passing through the area, trying to also offer a helping hand to those who hadn’t yet made it out.
There are professionals who believe once someone is in extreme poverty, it is almost impossible to get out due to how it affects the brain. With so many people in the Tent Cities, the proven hard road it is to get out, and an economy that is declining, it is important to us that we try and help when we can. The world can be a tough place, so please join us in spreading a little kindness wherever you can!