Cary Nonprofit Celebrates 30 Years of Supporting Homeless Families

By Mia Khatib

CARY — Homelessness can reach anyone, even in prosperous communities like Cary. But nonprofits like The Carying Place are there to help working families with children get back on their feet. The organization celebrated its 30th anniversary on Thursday and was joined by many community partners to discuss the need for affordable housing in the town.

Illness, domestic violence, divorce or home destruction are some of the destabilizing life events that lead families to homelessness. Executive director Leslie Covington said working hard and holding several jobs isn’t always substantial enough to stay afloat, and people end up turning to The Carying Place for help.

“Financial literacy is the fundamental to success… and so that’s what we do for our families. We meet them where they are, we put them in the housing that they need short term, and we teach them the life and budgeting skills that they need,” she said. “Our goal is to take them from transitional housing all the way to the journey to homeownership.”

With 12 transitional housing units and programming that supports around 36 families a year, the organization has an 80% success rate of families moving into independent living. Families can save $3,000 to $5,000 in the 15-week program and continue to receive employment skills and homeownership support as graduates.

“The whole point… [is to] change the trajectory for our children,” Covington said. “We have served over 1,000 children, helping them to become stable in school, in their community, in their homes… and those children are more likely to be stable adults.”

But The Carying Place doesn’t do it all alone. It has tons of community partners that play a different role in empowering these families to get back on their feet.

Note in the Pocket, for example, is the clothing piece. Executive director Dallas Bonavita said they provide a small wardrobe for each student in The Carying Place’s program so when children walk into the classroom, they feel comfortable and competent.

“That’s where the change begins,” she said. “When you walk in and your shoes are falling apart and your clothes are not great, you’re not talking to anybody, you’re trying to be under the radar.”

The YMCA of the Triangle offers free before and after school child care and other programming for families that can’t afford it, while many local churches collaborate to host summer enrichment camps for kids.

Greenwood Forest Baptist Church Pastor Wesley Spears-Newsome said one of the places he would pick up kids from camp was sold at a million dollars an acre, and it’s not going to be affordable housing anymore.

“The No. 1 request we get at the church for help always is rent and housing because people can’t afford the rents that are here,” he said. “I’m not worried about the cooperative program ever running out of funds, I’m worried about running out of children because they will have been displaced too far for us to be able to minister with them anymore.”

Greenwood is also repurposing some of its property for affordable housing and is partnering with The Carying Place, DHIC, the Town of Cary and Haven Ventures. They are still working on rezoning and planning, but residents can expect to see a concept in the coming months, Tim Carr said on behalf of The Carying Place Properties Committee.

Program graduate Shanice Singletary said she doesn’t know what her life would be like if it wasn’t for The Carying Place. Employees helped arrange child care for her kids while she was working, let them explore their interests, and taught her valuable budgeting skills that left her with $4,500 saved after transitional housing.

“[That] is a really great place to start when essentially you’re starting over,” Singletary said. “And even now I do pretty good budgeting.”

Emery Hamilton, Singleton’s teenage daughter who went into the program at age 11, remembers keeping school events from her mom because she didn’t want to burden her, and picking up duties like looking after her little brother or cooking dinner to help ease the load.

“As a kid, that’s not something you want to have to do,” she said. “It was just a lot of times like that and then we got into the program, and suddenly she has all this time so we can hang out. It really helped my family get back together because, before, there was a lot of distance.”

Mia Khatib, who covers affordable housing and gentrification, is a Report for America corps member.


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