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Charlotte men’s shelter shows its ‘heart’ reopening after $5.8M makeover

Dormitory renovations were part of a $5.8 million makeover project at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, which reopened Saturday to the homeless following the completion of construction.
Dormitory renovations were part of a $5.8 million makeover project at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, which reopened Saturday to the homeless following the completion of construction. droberts@charlotteobserver.com

A massive, months-long renovation has been completed at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, transforming the well-known North Tryon Street facility for homeless on the inside and out.

On Saturday, men began returning to the site, which reopened after being shuttered during the nearly five-month, $5.8 million project. The property had not undergone a significant renovation since it was established in 1985 in the former home of a plumbing supply warehouse, shelter Executive Director Liz Clasen-Kelly said.

“It was in utter disrepair,” she said. “It was dark, dismal. Our building did not represent the heart of our agency.”

The sweeping changes at the 1210 N. Tryon St. building include a new roof; piping; kitchen equipment; and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. In addition, sleeping and shower areas have been overhauled, including making them more private. Other rooms have been refurbished, such as a wellness wing and an area where men use computers to search for housing and job openings.

Changes on the outside include a parking area that has been converted to a small park, next to an added area for playing basketball.

“With this renovation, we’ve created a space where our men can feel good about starting over, versus a place that felt like you had hit rock bottom,” Clasen-Kelly said.

The site is one of two campuses owned and operated by the nonprofit Men’s Shelter. The other is on Statesville Avenue.

During construction, the nonprofit provided alternative housing, including at its Statesville Avenue campus. Post-renovation, 20 beds are being added at the Statesville site, up from 150 previously.

In Mecklenburg County, they are the only shelters open to men year-round.

Clasen-Kelly said the North Tryon shelter — which has 230 beds post-renovation, up from 200 — has been at capacity since she took over the agency in September 2016.

Last year, the average stay at the shelter was around 100 days, Clasen-Kelly said. That has risen to about 150 days, she said.

A key factor for the increase is Charlotte’s shortage of affordable housing, she said, adding that half of the men who come into the shelter have some form of income. “It’s becoming harder and harder to move out of the shelter, because it’s becoming harder for people to find housing they can afford.”

Men’s Shelter raised a mix of private and public dollars for the renovation project, Clasen-Kelly said, including $500,000 from the city of Charlotte. Other funding sources included Men’s Shelter board members, foundations and an anonymous $1 million gift, she said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts
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