Unsheltered in Place

How the Urban Ministry Center | Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (Now Roof Above) is getting creative to meet the needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

We’re seeing our people and partners step up and step out in faith in a way that’s incredibly different from how we’re used to doing it, and incredibly meaningful in its impact.

Court Young

Director of Outreach

Grant Baldwin via QCNerve

What does a stay-at-home order mean when you don’t have a home? The COVID-19 pandemic has made our community’s racial and wealth inequities even more evident, and perhaps there is nowhere more evident than outside the gates of Roof Above (formerly the Urban Ministry Center | Men’s Shelter of Charlotte) Day Service Center, where dozens of tents have been set up.

“Some have shared that this is the closest place that feels like home,” says Liz Clasen-Kelly, Executive Director of Roof Above. That sense of home – nourishment, stability, comfort – is difficult to find for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Any glimpse of that, no matter how small, is essential in a moment of crisis. “We continue to remind people to do their best to stay six feet away from others and to follow other safety protocols.” The Centers for Disease Control recommends not removing encampments, allowing people to remain as stationary as possible, and maintaining their link to the services and opportunities that organizations like Roof Above provide.

Watch as Randall Hitt, the chief engagement officer for the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministry Center talks about how the coronavirus pandemic in N.C. has impacted his life. Via Raleigh News & Observer

Braden and Fenley Hamilton, Anita Zeigler, and Kensley, William, and John Nelson spent the afternoon packing lunch bags for Roof Above.

You’d think that with uncertain funding and no volunteers that Roof Above would be constrained to a more limited response to this pandemic, but the opposite is true. They were able to convert their Statesville Avenue campus to an all-day shelter, providing three meals a day. Their College Street campus has been serving more lunches than ever before. With a network of other partners, they were even able to provide increased shelter capacity for high-risk individuals at a local motel. Creative ways of solving emerging issues and better serving the needs of the community have kept both Roof Above and their partners in a heightened state of communication, putting out the call and seeing the immediate response to their online wish list.

“It’s been incredible to see the response from our congregation for our neighbors in need,” says Court Young, MPPC’s Director of Outreach, “their willingness to jump in and get busy supporting our partners can’t be understated.” One of the ways members have responded is by firing up their sewing machines. Cloth masks have been one of the most critical needs in our community, particularly for those working at Roof Above.

Anna Carrol, a senior at Myers Park High School, got to work making masks weeks ago and has made over 100 masks so far. “I’ve always loved sewing and saw this opportunity as a way to use my passion to help others and keep people safe,” she says. Anna has also reached out to friends who sew, sharing tips and patterns, and recruited other MPPC youth to start producing masks. “I think that I need to do this to help others in the community.” Thanks to people all across the city like Anna, Roof Above has enough masks for all of their employees and nearly all of the people they’re providing support to.


Anticipated increase in people needing assistance finding stable, affordable housing.

Families that Crisis Assistance Ministry has helped stabilize in over 50 hotels.

Lack of housing contributes to poor health outcomes, even without the added crisis of COVID-19. “We always say, ‘Housing is healthcare.’ Never has that felt more true,” Liz Clasen-Kelly says. “We are thinking strategically about how to add space to our portfolio and how we can move people through our system quicker, thereby opening up additional space. During the month of March, across all programs, our teams moved 41 people home!”

And Roof Above is just one of our partners working to solve incredibly difficult housing issues every day. Across the city, professional non-profits, families, and businesses have pulled together, giving what they can and stepping into expanded roles to be God’s hands and feet in a world rocked by the pandemic.

Want to print or download this story? Click the button for a PDF version.