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Boys camp out in Charlottte to raise homelessness awareness

In front of St. Gabriel Catholic Church, a bunch of high school boys set up camping tents. One even crafted a personal hut out of a cardboard box.

They camped out Friday night at the busy corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads, to show support for Supportive Housing Communities, to raise awareness about homelessness in Charlotte and to help with the church’s efforts to help the homeless. To make it a 24-hour venture, they spent Saturday on site loading furniture donated to the church that will be used to help furnish places for homeless people.

At SHC’s McCreesh Place, where there is a complex of 91 bedrooms for chronically homeless men, there was a gathering Friday night with music and testimonies to celebrate its 10th anniversary and raise awareness.

Different church groups and volunteers also were supposed to go down the street to Cordelia Park to camp out, but no one showed.

Sherry Waters-Wilson, the development officer for SHC, said she wants more people to know about the organization and how to help stop homelessness.

She said tenants are required to pay 30 percent of their incomes to be housed at McCreesh Place, which has dorm-style living, and they receive counseling and case management services.

“This is one of the best ways to end homelessness in our community,” she said. “It’s providing a place that gives stable support that meets people where they are.”

At St. Gabriel, eight high school boys got a taste of what it’s like to be homeless.

“The traffic was really loud,” said Nick Burger, 15.

But he and volunteer organizer Kris Knudsen said the tents, along with a sign, did help raise awareness, because a lot of people honked and waved.

Burger said one man stopped to talk to him about what they were doing and proceeded to donate money for the cause.

The crowd coming home from the bars, however, wasn’t so fun: “At 4 o’clock in the morning, people had the windows down and were screaming, ‘Wake up!’ ” he said.

Tyler Martino, 17, slept in a box with a sleeping bag, which he said was surprisingly warm. But still, he’ll be glad to return to a real bed Saturday night: “It made me appreciate what I have.”

Ruebens: 704-358-5294
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