Building Healthy People, Relationships Amid Charlotte Housing Crisis – WSOC TV
For most people without a permanent home, they have countless obstacles in trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The struggle is exacerbated by the lack of access to healthy food and quality health care.
For the past eight months, Darius Gaskins has made the distinction between living on the streets and staying in motels.
Two of his biggest concerns are making sure he has a place to sleep and food to eat.
âBeing able to afford a decent meal after paying for a room every day is getting expensive,â Gaskins said. “I’m always on the chase, I always try to make sure I have a place to sleep and that never allows me to think of anything else.”
Even with his challenges, with a big smile, Gaskins keeps a positive tone in every syllable he speaks.
That day, he was part of a pilot program between Atrium Health, ONE Charlotte Health Alliance and Life Project of North Carolina.
The program covers access to food, cooking demonstrations, nutrition education and health exams for motel residents and community members.
Since there are no grocery stores near the motel where Gaskins lodges, his food choices are limited to fast food restaurants and convenience stores.
âI look across the street and see fast food restaurants, and if that’s all they can afford or get, they’re not helping their bodies,â said Elaine Jones, responsible for community engagement for the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.
So, during the 8 week program, Loaves & Fishes will donate boxes of food for the participants. The boxes contain enough food for a week.
âWe teach them how to cook in the microwave, which is the only cooking source built into these motel rooms,â Jones said.
Jones begins his demonstration, pulling out noodles, gravy, and canned meats to create a meal tasty enough that the smiling Gaskins take seconds.
âI think it’s great. Children who stay here can wake up to a nutritious meal and throughout the day they don’t have to worry about falling asleep with an injured stomach, âGaskins said.
You can’t miss the colorful bus in the background of ONE Charlotte Health Alliance, where Gaskins went for a checkup.
âThey took my height, blood pressure and weight and then they asked me if I had insurance that way they could put me up with that and a primary care doctor,â he says. “That way I could take better care of my health.”
Life Project NC, which is an initiative of Northside Baptist Church, has been working with these families for almost a year.
âIt’s who we are and we’re meant to love our community,â said Veronica Washington, community outreach coordinator for Northside Baptist Church. “They trust us and when they trust us we are able to live with them and provide them with what they need.”
When members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s community engagement team show up, boxes of food are handed out, and then very excited kids line up with them at the ice cream truck. The smiles get even bigger.
âI’m drawn to this neighborhood because of the huge population of people who have been displaced by homelessness, loss of jobs, lack of transportation,â Jones said. âIt’s an opportunity to take them out of the rooms and connect with them on a very personal level.â
With all the barriers in place for Gaskins, he has a plan and a path to improve his life. The support of this collective will make its journey a little easier.
âI want to be in a stable position so that I can call a place home and be able to work a regular job,â Gaskins said. “Just have an ordinary house with food and a refrigerator and be able to work and be a productive citizen.”
âI want them to remember someone cares and they feel heard and they feel seen instead of invisible,â Jones said. “It gives them leeway to breathe out and relax.”
The differences between the homeless or those without permanent housing make it more difficult to obtain health care and are more difficult to deal with because they have no housing.
Obviously, this group of caring individuals are trying to change that narrative.
âThat personal touch changes a life just by being there and if more people stopped, watched, accepted and got involved, this world would be a better place. This community would get better, âJones said.
As Gaskins walked back to his motel room, he turned around and put on that big smile, waved his hand and said, “Thank you.”
With all the challenges our community faces, it is evident that this team will stay in place for as long as it takes to work and serve our neighbors in need.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, Public Affairs Manager for WSOC-TV / WAXN-TV / Telemundo Charlotte, at [email protected]
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