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Hope, healing, home

On this day, we give thanks for the blessings in our lives, including those who bring blessings to others. Earlier this month, Urban Ministry Center hosted a Charlotte luncheon that featured the stories of men and women who have lived in homelessness but now know the promise of hope and healing. Each will experience the simple and profound blessing of an apartment, thanks to Urban Ministry and our generous community.

Here are five stories, in their words. Photos by Mark Edward Atkinson

Annie Gurley

When I close my eyes I can hear my boy crying. Crying out for me. And I am not there and he is dead. He is dead now.

Homeless is the real thing, it’s a mind thing, it’s when your heart is hurt. I called myself a camper. Never homeless because I didn’t want my heart to get homeless. When you’re homeless there’s nowhere to put your things. Art helps. I always did art, especially during the hardest times. A soul collage – it says, “Don’t you see me now?”


William Dukes

I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Went to Vietnam. The infantry taught me how to be invisible. Drugs sent me down the wrong path and I ended up in Charlotte, a city that is transforming like me.

Today I am outstanding. Progress inspires me. There is always a benefit to adversity. Feeling better made me want to help others. I stay busy now putting something back into the community.

I was never taught to draw. Paintings come out of my heart.


Todd Alison Burns, aka Tabby

I got married when I was 15. My mom sent me off with a permission slip, cause my stepfather didn’t want me around. It didn’t last six months. I drove 18-wheelers from coast to coast until four men beat, raped and robbed me. I started doing crack.

Many times I went to rehab, cause I was forced to. And then I saw a woman and her 16-yer-old child “working” and on drugs and I said to myself “that could be me.” I didn’t want that to be me. I have a 17-year-old daughter. I don’t want to go back. I like to crochet, collect coins, knit and do puzzles. I love puzzles, and unicorns.


William Pumphrey

When I was a child, I wanted a model plane like the other kids had, but the family couldn’t afford it. So I drew my own on paper and would run along beside the other kids with my drawing. Then I learned to build ’em.


Ronnie Pierce

We were raised on a tobacco farm. My brother died when he was little. We were running around the house and he got hurt. Thought I killed him. I didn’t know until I was older that he was a hemophiliac.

I made my mistakes, spent nine years in prison. Became homeless when mom and dad died and we were evicted. Now I got this place so I don’t have to worry about things anymore. I don’t have to worry when it rains. I can lay my head down any time I want. I sit in my rocking chair and rock myself to sleep. I thank God for what I do have, but I still look over my shoulder.


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