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Donors Offer 'Moore' To Homeless

Julie Rose

  One year ago this Sunday, 13 people moved into apartments as part of a pilot project to end chronic homelessness. The Urban Ministry Center now hopes to expand the project to an entire apartment building and name it after one visionary Charlotte couple. WFAE's Julie Rose has this profile of John and Pat Moore. Theirs is not a name you've likely heard in conjunction with philanthropy - not like Duke, or Belk or Levine. That's how John and Pat Moore prefer it. "We've shied away from having our name on a building, because that is not our interest," says John Moore. But the Moores are ready to make a big exception to that rule. It started a couple of years ago, when a staff member at the Urban Ministry wrote a column in the Charlotte Observer calling for permanent housing for the chronically homeless. Out of the blue, the phone rang for Dale Mullenix, the head of the Urban Ministry. "John Moore called and said, 'If you want to do that, we will fund it,'" says Mullenix. "This doesn't happen every day obviously, but knowing them, it just fits who they are." Mullenix has known them ten years, since they volunteered to host homeless families at Christ Episcopal Church. John Moore says that experience moved them. "I recall this young couple who temporarily were homeless and she was about six to seven months pregnant," says Moore. "They said, please awaken us at 5 o'clock because we want to go down to the job pool and stand in line to get a job. And I thought, here this expecting mother is going to go down and stand in line in the cold to get a job for the day, so uh. . . " "This was our big surprise," adds Pat Moore. "These were people like us." And people like Robert. He'd been homeless for 8 years, often living in a barn, when he moved into an apartment last year as part of a pilot project that does just what that newspaper column suggested: Give permanent housing to the chronically homeless. "I feel a whole lot better now since I'm here in a stable place and I can keep up with my health, and take baths more regularly," says Robert. John and Pat Moore funded the project with a $200,000 donation. It paid for rent, case management, substance abuse treatment, job training, and even community college courses for Robert and 12 others. On that success, the Urban Ministry is drumming up support for an entire complex of 85 studio apartments to permanently house people who've been chronically homeless. The Urban Ministry's Kathy Izard was intent on calling it Moore Place. "We could not have done this without their belief in the program," says Izard. "We had a great idea, we just had no way to implement it. Money was the absolute barrier." It took some convincing by Urban Ministry staff, but the Moores have agreed to let the new building bear their name. Pat says it's because of the success of the pilot program. And John adds "We feel strongly that a society cannot be fully judged without looking at how we treat the individuals who have the least, and so uh, of all groups for us to be associated with, I think the homeless is where we want to be." The Moores have been generous with their money over the years, but they don't have the kind of wealth that would merit an endowment. Two-hundred thousand dollars is the largest single gift they've made. Pat Moore says it was a stretch. "The second installment wasn't easy this year with the economy." The Moore's son Kent says, "They don't despise money. They love comfortable things. But at the same time, I've seen them give away much more than half of their earnings in a year." Kent runs the real estate development company his father built buying small properties around Charlotte and holding on to them for the long term. Today, John and Pat live in a restored home in Myers Park. They're in their early 70s. Pat composts in her garden and offers pomegranate tea to guests. John spends a lot of time at golfing at Quail Hollow. Their son Kent says the leisure life was a long-time coming. "Dad was real busy," recalls Kent. "He was an entrepreneur trying to make it with very few resources early on. And my mother trying to raise four kids - you know they've been very, very fortunate." The Moores sent their kids to public school and Kent says they taught him to always get to the back of the line; to make sure others were taken care of first. As John Moore's real estate acquisitions paid off, he began investing in regional banks. He thought they promised a good return. Ultimately, they became his soap box. John Moore surfaces annually to chastise bank executives for taking big bonuses and unreasonable risks. Despite significant losses, he says he's hanging onto the stock so he can keep pushing for social justice in corporate America. Pat doesn't go to those bank meetings. But she's become an activist, too. Last month gave her first rally speech at a protest against Duke Energy. "Stop your lobbyists from paying people to change their minds about coal!" demanded Pat Moore. After that speech, Pat spent a day in jail for civil disobedience. But the Moores say ending homelessness is the issue closest to their hearts. Just a few weeks ago, they spent a Friday night sleeping in a park to show solidarity for more shelters in Charlotte. The Urban Ministry Center hopes to break ground on Moore Place this fall, but there are challenges ahead: Like raising $6million. And handling resistance from the Druid Hills neighborhood where Moore Place will be. If it does get built, don't go looking for a fancy portrait of the Moores as benevolent benefactors in the lobby. "Absolutely not. The important thing is that it's there to serve," says John. "And we liked the play on the word 'Moore.' That they could have 'more' in their lives than they had had."