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For two years, WFAE has reported on the Charlotte area's affordable housing crisis through our Finding Home series. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, since 1990, home values have increased 36%, while median household income has gone up only 4%. The appearance of prosperity with new development masks the fact that people are being priced out of their neighborhoods.

Facing Eviction, Transitional Shelter For Homeless Families Fights For Its Life

Sonja Chisholm runs Gracious Hands, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children. The program has lost its lease and is seeking a new home.
David Boraks
Sonja Chisholm runs Gracious Hands, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children. The program has lost its lease and is seeking a new home.

A transitional housing program for homeless women and their children is fighting eviction from its rental house in northwest Charlotte, while also raising money to buy its own home. An update on Gracious Hands, as part of our ongoing series "Finding Home."

Since 2015, Gracious Hands has helped dozens of homeless women find jobs and get into permanent housing. But this summer, the landlord of its home on North Hoskins Road, off N.C. 16, decided not to renew the lease and began eviction proceedings after a dispute over repairs needed to meet city codes. Director Sonja Chisholm is up against the clock.

"So we are doing a campaign called 'Saving Gracious Hands.'" Chisholm said. "We have a GoFundMe pagewhere people can donate to help us purchase a house."

Her goal is $200,000. A previous fundraising dinner in August brought in about $21,000 to help with a down payment.

The fundraising group Share Charlotteis helping out, by making Gracious Hands one of its beneficiaries for the nationwide "Giving Tuesday" Nov. 27.

Chisholm said time is short, for the home and the four families living there right now.

"It's the holidays. It's getting ready to get cold," she said. "So, I'm gonna fight with everything in me. The last thing I need is for them to become homeless again."

Chisholm is spending a lot of time these days looking at houses to buy or rent for the short term, in case they're evicted. It's slow going because many landlords won't rent to a program like Gracious Hands, and the nonprofit may need an exception to city zoning rules that limit group homes.  

For now, the work continues. Chisholm said one resident recently moved out after finding work, saving several thousand dollars and finding a home of her own. There have been dozens of success stories like that one over the past three years.    

The eviction case is back in court Dec. 10. Chisholm said if they lose, and can't find another home.

"These women will be homeless," Chisholm said. "Like one of them told me, 'Well, Miss Sonja, I'll end up back in my car, with my 12 year old daughter.' We can't allow that to happen." 

"America is the richest nation in the world, and Charlotte is one of the richest cities in America," she added. "We shouldn't even be having this conversation."

Chisholm said she's "just praying that everything goes all right."  These women and children, she said, deserve better than to be back out on the streets.  


Gracious Hands web page, gracioushandshousing.org/

GoFundMe.com page for Gracious Hands. 

Share Charlotte, sharecharlotte.org

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.