Steven “Chipper” Long narrated a story his grandfather told him about when he immigrated from Lebanon to Ellis Island. His grandfather said he saw a man drop a nickel on the street and when the man left, he used the nickel to buy a loaf of bread. He remembered his grandfather saying the bread was moldy and that he wasn’t able to eat it.
“He knew what it was like to come to this country and not speak the language and be hungry — and that stuck with me,” said Long. “So he always fed people in his store.”
From a young age, Long said he knew he needed to help people whenever he could. When he heard about Anson County wanting to start a Homes of Hope program, similar to the one in Stanly County, he jumped on board.
“A lot of times we don’t see our homeless population,” he said. “The phenomena of couch surfing is very real here and this is the time of year where those welcome mats come back up and people are pushed onto the street.”
Long said that he knew homelessness existed in the county, but that it really hit him when he and fellow board member Jessica Dayton scouted the area to look at potential homes.
“We were looking for the water heater in the house and we looked into the crawlspace and we opened the door and there were several bags of people’s belongings,” he said. “The most significant image was the Disney princess suitcase.”
According to a Point-in-Time count, during a week in January 2017, more than 8,900 people experienced homelessness in the U.S. The same count showed 37 people in Anson County were considered homeless and living in emergency housing.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines homelessness as, “an individual who lacks housing, including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.”
Homes of Hope is a six-month transitional housing program in Anson County. The first three months of the program are free and then individuals start paying monthly increments of $50, $75 and $100 dollars over the next three months. In order to get into the program, individuals must go through an application process to make sure it’s a good fit for them.
“We see where these people are at (that) time in their life and then we assess if we can help them,” said Long.
Those considered for the program will meet with a case worker to develop a six-month calendar and establish goals they’re expected to meet over the course of living in the home.
“They don’t just sit there,” said Long. “We provide cable, internet, utilities and cleaning supplies. All they have to do is keep the property up and work and save.”
The mission of Homes of Hope is to, “reduce homelessness in Anson County through transitional housing, emergency housing, case management, resource connections and skill acquisition that will enable individuals and families in need to gain independence and become successful community members.”
It’s a mission that the Rev. Dr. Sarah Kalish experienced during her time ministering in Charlotte. Kalish said she worked with housing programs similar to Homes of Hope and how there would be families who would come to the church every Christmas for warm meals.
“It’s an opportunity to see homelessness as a person and not just a thing,” she said. “You’re able to put a real face to it.”
Davi Trotti also agreed that the program is beneficial to the community and she hopes to volunteer her time when it is up and running.
“There is more homelessness than people realize and those who are not in poverty don’t always see those who are in poverty,” she said. “It’s a program that allows us to see those people and it allows us to become involved in their lives and for them to become involved in ours.”