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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Sasser

Combatting Homelessness with Colorful Refrigerators Throughout Charlotte, N.C.

by Mitchell Sasser | WeINSPIRE Contributor

GOOCHLAND, Va. — North Carolina has seen over 887,000 cases of COVID-19. More than 11,000 of those cases have resulted in death. As vaccines begin to rollout across the United States, many are still affected by evictions and unemployment.

Local heroes, like Shamelle Jackson, are stepping up in their own ways to help combat the havoc caused by COVID-19 in their communities.

Jackson is the founder of Davillage Pop-Up Shop, an organization focused on providing free food, free clothes, and a supportive community for low-income families in Charlotte, North Carolina. They have local fridges stocked with necessities anyone can use, along with monthly pop-up shops that feature free clothes along with a lively musical atmosphere.

Courtesy of Da Village/Instagram

She also has a unique reason for helping those in need; having literally been in their shoes before.

“My motivation was because I experienced my own form of homelessness,” Jackson said. “I’ve never lived outside, but I have slept in my car, as well as lived in a shelter.”

Jackson remembers wishing she had a community of support and someone to lend a helping hand when homeless. She now uses Davillage Pop-Up Shop as a way to lift others.

Due to COVID-19, there may not be as many handshakes or hugs, but Jackson never shies away from helping someone in need.

Jackson was in Minnesota during the George Floyd protests. She saw shelvings of water and baskets of fruit in the street that were available for anyone who needed it. This inspired her to start something similar in her community and immediately started googling local food pantries, finding areas that faced food insecurity in North Carolina, and taking action by seeing if anyone had a spare fridge available.

Courtesy of Da Village/Instagram

Jackson started by just taking purses filled with hygiene items to the local women’s shelter. She also took supplies to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. As she started to do this more and more, people like friends and family began to believe in her focus. Jackson said once you get out into the community, people will tell you what they need.

Before COVID-19, Jackson noted the prominence of the homeless community in Charlotte. But COVID-19 has only ramped up the need for support.

“But that is because people are really losing their jobs, they’re really getting evicted, they’re really getting pushed out of their homes, couples are really breaking up,” Jackson said.

Tent city, a large encampment of 70 tents that 100 people share outside of the Urban Ministry Center, is where Jackson tends to focus her efforts. Jackson said that the tents are “growing like crazy.” Right now, she is working on getting healthier food like fruits and vegetables to Charlotteans.

“Tent city” Charlotte N.C. Photo Credit: WSOC

“People just can’t afford healthy food, and honestly right now unfortunately a lot of them do need to eat healthier,” Jackson said. “It definitely is important for me to keep those types of things stocked in the refrigerator.”

While colorful refrigerators may be welcoming to some, Jackson noted that businesses might be less enthusiastic about having something that requires electricity out on the sidewalk. Jackson also wants to incorporate desk drawers filled with dry goods like bread and canned goods to expand her reach.

Jackson has started the process to become a 501-(c)(3) nonprofit but said that it’s not an “overnight thing.” Ultimately, her goal is to have a building with a resource center and the ability to be a safe haven for those who need to get back on their feet.

Through Davillage Pop-Up Shop, Jackson has learned that homelessness can affect anyone at any given time.

Courtesy of Da Village/Instagram

“I’ve learned that at any given time, it could still be any of us,” Jackson said. “Because a lot of those people out there are smart, very intelligent, have had electrician jobs, one guy was even a pilot - like, you just never know. I’ve just learned that you can never think that you are above anything.”

You can support Davillage Pop-Up Shops by clicking the link here.

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