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Chris Johnson says he’s never found himself at a place where he necessarily wanted for anything. But the 19-year-old journalism student said he got a recent education in just how fortunate he’s been in life.
A film presented by Crossroads Charlotte, Temple Beth-El and Mecklenburg Ministries called “Souls of Our Neighbors” attempted to dispel certain myths about homelessness to a roomful of about 50 gathered Saturday, March 24, at UNC Charlotte’s new Uptown Campus. Most of those attending were from area high schools. Though a contingent of about a half dozen kids from the University of South Carolina Upstate, including Johnson, also attended.
The film depicts the real-life experiences of six Charlotte families who faced and overcame homelessness in what, by many measures, is regarded as one of the most prosperous cities in the country.
Johnson, a sophomore from Hampton, S.C., said he found the story of the Masters family particularly compelling.
Richard and Stacey Masters found themselves having to live in a tent in the woods for five months, even though Stacey had a full-time job. Their two daughters had to do their homework by candlelight.
But thanks to the help of a local church, the Masters were able to get an apartment. Two months after establishing a permanent address, Richard was able to find a job.
Johnson said even though his life has by all accounts been blessed, he added that it’s been because his single mom has often worked as many as three jobs to ensure he can have a bright future.
“She has struggled,” Johnson said. “I don’t take anything for granted.”
Also in the audience was Mike McIlwain, a USC alumnus and minister from Columbia. He brought his three children to see the presentation.
Like Hampton, McIlwain said he found the Masters’ profile particularly moving. That a church essentially rescued the family demonstrates the power the faith community has in helping people overcome homelessness.
“God is there in times of trouble,” he said, paraphrasing Psalm 46. “And if the church can’t do it, they can network within the community to get you the help you need.”
Che Evans said she found the film’s depictions of homelessness “scary.” The 18-year-old is studying Human Services at Central Piedmont Community College.
“I’ve never heard of a family having to camp out in the woods for five months,” she said. “It makes me think of things a little differently now.”
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