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Charlotte Area News

Bonus Grant Extends Emergency Food And Shelter In Mecklenburg

Several Charlotte-area food pantries and homeless shelters have received an emergency infusion of cash from the federal government. The money will keep doors open and stomachs filled through the end of the year. Earlier this year, Mecklenburg County nonprofits got more than $700,000 from FEMA to provide emergency shelter and food for people affected by the economic downturn. But local shelters and food pantries are receiving a record number of requests for help, so they went back to FEMA asking for more money and got a $222,000 bonus. There's just one catch: the money has to be spent by December 31st. "We'll spend it before then and continue to look for additional resources as well," says Carson Dean, executive director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte which got $43,600 from the bonus grant. That money will cover the cost of sheltering 40 additional men: "We're providing three meals a day, and basic things like extra toilets being flushed, extra linens being used," explains Dean. "When you're talking about the scale that we operate on - over 500 men per night - those things add up to fairly significant expenses that are not always easy to secure resources to take care of." Last October, Dean says the Men's Shelter housed 390 men per night on average. Now the average is 550 and expected to reach 600 over the winter. Extra FEMA money is also going to the Salvation Army shelter for women and children and the United Family Services shelter for victims of domestic violence. Both are operating above capacity. In addition to homeless shelters, the grant will help fund two local food pantries and the Crisis Assistance Ministry, which offers emergency help paying the rent or mortgage.