Partners keep families housed after Silver Oak Apartments close

Dozens of low-income families being displaced by the closing of the 337-unit Silver Oak Apartments have found new homes, thanks to a hastily put together partnership of Charlotte nonprofits and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Organizers say Community Link and Charlotte Family Housing helped 34 low-income households (115 people) avoid homelessness by placing them in homes. One additional family remains in Silver Oak, but a housing plan is in place for them to move, officials said.

Crisis Assistance Ministry provided $15,095 to 15 households that needed help with security and utility deposits to get into new homes. Other partners in the program, including Communities in Schools and A Child’s Place, helped place some children in new schools and identified other students as eligible for homeless aid programs.

Carol Hardison of Crisis Assistance Ministry said the closing of Silver Oak worsens Charlotte’s affordable housing shortage, which experts say is a key reason family homelessness has risen 10 percent to 36 percent annually over the past five years.

However, she said the nonprofit response to Silver Oak’s closing created a new model that can now be quickly launched whenever similar situations arise.

“It’s a problem in our community when we tear down existing units without thinking where people in poverty are going to be going,” said Hardison, noting she first learned of the closing from churches approached by panicked families.

“What we’ve done is create a coordinated approach, with each of the charities trying to solve the problem by focusing on what they do best. None of us has strayed outside our area of expertise to solve this problem. It will be the standard in dealing with this from now on.”

The charity consortium launched in December after word spread that the Silver Oak Apartments on Monroe Road had warned all tenants that their leases would not be renewed because the community was being torn down.

The 20-acre site, just east of the Idlewild-Monroe roads intersection, is to be the new home of a mixed-use project that will include 15,000 square feet of retail space and 275 market-rate apartments. A start date for demolition has not been set, but the tenants were expected to be out at the end of January.

Goode Development, which has owned the site since 1993, worked with nonprofits to prevent families from being without a home during the holidays, organizers said.

Harold Rice Jr. of Community Link helped coordinate the program, and he says it’s the second time in the past two years the agency has helped a developer deal with departing low-income tenants.

The previous case, involving the Tryon Meadows apartments north of uptown, was done quietly because the owner wanted to avoid publicity, Rice said. At that time, only 171 of the estimated 500 units in Tryon Meadows were still occupied, and most of those who remained were low-income tenants, Rice said.

“With Silver Oak, it could have been a big mess with the holidays so close and the timeline to get out pretty condensed,” Rice said. “There was a time when a lot of folks thought they wouldn’t have a home for Christmas, but that didn’t happen.”