Monday, June 22, 2009

Off Exit 10A - signs and a question

On Exit 10A, off Interstate 77, most every morning, someone holds a sign.


Some days, it's an older man in a ragged Panthers jersey, his arms and legs shaking. On others, a woman in jeans and a gray T-shirt, sitting on a curb, her arms on her knee, her sign in her hands.

"Help me" and "Homeless," the signs say. "Hungry" and "God Bless."

Some drivers hand a dollar out the window off Exit 10A. Far more fiddle with their radio, sip from their coffee, look away. Perhaps they worry how that dollar out the window might be misspent. Perhaps they prefer to help through church offerings or United Way.

Maybe they go right to the non-profit, trusting that others know how to administer the money properly, that they serve best as a bridge between people who help and people who need.

What do we do when that bridge begins to collapse?

Beginning today, in this space, we'll explore the funding crisis facing Mecklenburg County's non-profit community. People running those charities call it The Cliff - a dire budgetary future brought to bear by a global recession and deep troubles at our regional United Way chapter.

In Sunday's Observer, reporters Eric Frazier, Mark Price and April Bethea told you how collectively, non-profits supported by the Arts & Science Council and the United way are facing at least a $20 million drop in available aid.

Last week, ASC announced that grants to major beneficiaries were down 26 percent, year over year. Tomorrow, the United Way of Central Carolinas will tell more than 90 member agencies what funding cuts they'll endure in the next budget year. Some non-profits will lose 40 percent or more. Some will have funding cut altogether.

The crisis is not confined to non-profits. Last week, Mecklenburg County commissioners cut $10.8 million from the Department of Social Services, which fills basic needs of thousands in the county. State legislators will likely announce more significant cuts soon.

All this as the recession has created a greater need for services throughout the county, including an 85 percent increase in calls and referrals for homeless services. The people who come to Exit 10A.

We'll bring you the news of those United Way cuts, and we'll tell you how they will impact Charlotte's non-profits and the people they serve. We'll also tell you what some in the Charlotte community are doing to offset at least a little of the shortfall. Already, we're seeing movement from Charlotte's philanthropic community and smaller, grass roots efforts.

We'll bring it all to you with the help of our media partners - listed over to your right. It's an unprecedented collaboration of Charlotte media - called Charlotte Mission Possible - designed to let you know which critical needs are being unmet in Mecklenburg, and what you can do to help.

Here's one way: Tell us your stories, your needs, your ideas. What do you want us to report on? What needs do you have that might be threatened by cuts? What ideas do you have - short term and long - to help Mecklenburg navigate this crisis?

It's not as simple anymore as checking your United Way box at work - or not checking it in protest. It's about asking yourself what part you might want to play in our most critical charitable moment.

12 comments:

Debbie Olsakovsky said...

I don't think you get it yet. No one I know cares about people who 1) don't know how to live within their means or 2) are too crazy to get a job or 3) are alcoholics who can't get a job or 4) are too lazy to care about getting a job and know some liberal will take care of them if they look pitiful enough. Clue: those shaky legs aren't from hunger.

Moreover, culture is the first thing to go when time are tough. Get with it and stop whining about ASC and the Symphony. When the city fathers can afford these amenities again they will be back.

Needs? You want to know about needs? I need responsible reporting about nation and world events. Not one page added at the last minute to the middle of section A. I don't need an entire newspaper devoted to a liberal agenda pasted up days in advance.

WashuOtaku said...

Nobody wants to donate money to the local United Way here, its managed by crooks that spend it for there own personal needs. Even though they are trying to fix that problem, the damage is done.

I still give money to the United Way... to the High-Country United Way in Boone. Not one cent of mine will ever go to Charlotte's United Way.

harry said...

You're typical of the "Charlotte offended". You think helping the homeless makes you 'feel good' and you've probably helped that person toward recovery. Reality is, they made a choice to be where they're at. Bad choice?, yes, but we live with our choices and don't rely on a handout or government assistance. You pull yourself out, and start over.
Signs like, "God Bless you" ? Their God comes out of a crack pipe or bottle. If they wanted actual help, Churches would be glad to assist them; alas, they want your sympathy and dollars to better cope with life's issues.

Anonymous said...

Debbie,

When you say "too crzy to get a job" are you referring to somebody that is mentally ill?

Anonymous said...

All public art funding needs to be stopped ASAP. No more dirt cookies, nothing. Repeal the provision about 1% of all public projects budgets going to art. Look at that tacky mosaic stuff all up and down Freedom Dr. What hasn't come apart on its own has been plowed over by cars. Wasted money, every single bit of it.

Rose said...

What a bunch of selfish, judgmental jerks we have commenting on here!

I'm sure you've never had any problems that you needed help with in your entire life. I'm sure you've never had to call the police, the fire department or the ambulance.

We all pay to support those services, but it was your fault that you had to call those services and a tiny fraction of my money went to pay for it. But it was your fault, so you should settle your own disputes, patch up your own wounds and put out your own fires. That's what you people sound like when you say "no money for those loser homeless people," and "no money for public art."

Debbie, you sound like a very sad and angry person. "Too crazy to get a job?" Seriously? You wrote that and put your name on it. Yes, people suffer from mental illness and since we privatized the mental health system in the 1980s thousands have ended up on the streets. Do you feel that we should let them die in the gutter because they had the misfortune to have a chemical imbalance in their brain? I hope you never have to deal with mental illness. Alcoholism is a disease and those people deserve treatment. Let's make them productive rather than a drain.
I want to talk about needs. You want responsible reporting. This is it. Other media outlets are not reporting this. This is a catastrophic situation right here in our community. People will go hungry, be without health care and probably die if we don't do something.
It is our responsibility as human beings to help our neighbors. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it protects us in the end. If we have people falling into poverty, living with illness, living on the street and dying because we don't help them, it fundamentally damages us as a community. It increases our crime, decreases our quality of life in this city and affects us all in small and large ways.
Come on Charlotte, you can do better than this!

Anonymous said...

Debbie,

If you become disabled due to morbid obesity, I salute you for your decision to refuse any sort of disability assistance from governmental agencies, 501(c)3 programs, etc. Even if you it means you are forced into a shelter. Oh, wait, you'll need to pitch your tent at the local hobo camp, and I hope none of the bums help you there either.

Regards,
Compassionate Conservative

Anonymous said...

To Debbie and the "Compassionate Conservative"

One day you will be alone it is inevitable, we came into this world alone and that is the way were all leaving (in the best case scenario).

One day you may be hungry, not some 2 day fast to get into a swim suit due to your insecurities but really hungry and probably thirsty also.

One day you may do a hard days work such as haul your Friend who was shot a few miles to a medic to find out he will die, not 8hrs of yard work.

I wish you both good luck..

Your really going to need it!

Anonymous said...

CARWASH!!!! My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...

Anonymous said...

Rose wrote:
"I want to talk about needs. You want responsible reporting. This is it. Other media outlets are not reporting this. This is a catastrophic situation right here in our community. People will go hungry, be without health care and probably die if we don't do something.
It is our responsibility as human beings to help our neighbors. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it protects us in the end. If we have people falling into poverty, living with illness, living on the street and dying because we don't help them, it fundamentally damages us as a community. It increases our crime, decreases our quality of life in this city and affects us all in small and large ways.
Come on Charlotte, you can do better than this!"

Well said, Rose.

What I give is between me and God; what they do with it is between them and God.

Anonymous said...

Debbie,

I am so sorry that you do not know anyone who cares about other people.

What a selfish,foolish,hateful comment. I am sorry for your family that you have linked these awful, small minded, ignorant statements to their faces on your blog.

How shameful.

Anonymous said...

Debbie Olsakovsky,

Amen Sister!