How long will Men’s Shelter be without new leader?

Carson Dean announced in February he was resigning as executive director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte.
Carson Dean announced in February he was resigning as executive director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s biggest emergency shelter for men expects to operate into the summer with an interim leader at the helm, after the hurried departure of Carson Dean as its executive director.

Dean said in a Feb. 8 Observer story that he was resigning as head of the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte but suggested he would stay on until a successor was found.

That didn’t happen. Dean exited three weeks later, leaving the agency temporarily in the hands of Anita Leach, the shelter’s operations director the past eight years.

Will Alston, head of the shelter’s board of directors, said Dean offered to stay up to three months, but it was “mutually decided” he was not needed.

“He was ready for a change. … He told us he didn’t want his stay to be open ended,” Alston said. “Once we put the succession plan in place and named an interim, we felt we could achieve our mission for the (homeless) men. It’s hard to have two (executive directors) in place. We let Carson know.”

A search firm has been hired, and Alston believes a successor will be picked and in place at some point in the summer. Interviews have not begun, and a starting date for them is not yet announced. Alston would not comment on whether he has been approached by local candidates seeking the job.

Dean alerted the board in January of his decision to leave, taking many in the nonprofit community off guard.

During his tenure, Dean led the agency through a merger, introduced a rehousing initiative that got 1,500 men off the street and launched a $7 million campaign last year to renovate the 2  1/2-acre shelter site on North Tryon Street.

The renovation is controversial, because North Tryon Street businesses and property owners have become increasingly critical of the shelter’s policy of emptying its dorms daily while the building is being cleaned.

Dozens of homeless men linger along the street during the day, with no access to restroom facilities, drinking water or shelter from the weather.

Some businesses in the area have suggested the shelter should move to a bigger campus where it can expand its existing daytime programs to include more men.

The shelter’s board has rejected that idea, noting the current location suits the needs of the homeless men, who frequently visit the nearby Urban Ministry Center and Mecklenburg County’s Hal Marshall Annex (for free nightly meals).