On any given night, thousands of people have no place to call home. The Salvation Army teamed up with the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) and other key community partners in 2011 to offer people a way out of homelessness. The program, called the Supportive Housing Innovative Partnership, or (SHIP), provides 60 women and their children up to three years to gain the education and job training they need to earn a living wage and move into permanent housing.
To support this project, a group of volunteers formed Homemakers of Mercy , 100+ active church volunteers from two parishes in Charlotte. In the past six years, Homemakers of Mercy has helped move more than 300 families, including 600 children, into transitional housing through the SHIP program. Once a family in the program is ready to be moved in, Homemakers of Mercy starts doing the most good.
“This program keeps me in touch with those who struggle to have what I take for granted each day. Knowing that when an apartment is finished on our end, it opens a new door of hope for the future for someone else,” says Jane, a volunteer with the program from day one.
Providing a “new door of hope for the future” is exactly what these dedicated volunteers are doing.
One Saturday a month, two trucks pick up furniture needed for each home that will be decorated by the volunteers. The belongings that are picked up from donors are sorted and stored until a family is ready to be moved in.
Once a month, set-up teams meet to prepare apartments for the families to make sure they have everything they need. A typical apartment has one to three bedrooms, a family room, kitchen and one or two bathrooms. The volunteers select a sofa, chair, end table, coffee table, dressers, night stands and a kitchen table with chairs. They also gather accessories like lamps, pictures, toys, books and other items to make the apartment feel like home.
On the actual move-in day, the volunteers, with the help of a moving company, start moving in all the furniture and household items. They set up the bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen and family room. The process takes, on average, about two to three hours. Afterwards, additional volunteers provide a meal for the family to have when they first move in their new home.
It’s not just about moving a family into a house. It’s about creating a home, where they can find a new beginning.
Another volunteer with Homemakers of Mercy said, “I have loved every aspect of the SHIP / Homemakers of Mercy project. It has enriched my life abundantly. The people I've met, who I now call dear friends, and working side by side to help give these young women a chance at a fresh start, gives me a purpose and a feeling of fulfillment. It is a wonderful program.”