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Urban Explorer's Handbook 2006

The Ritz-Carlton of Homeless Shelters

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On any night in Charlotte, some 5,000 people find themselves homeless. They could be in any number of out-of-sight places: sleeping in a car, tucked beneath a highway underpass, crashing on a friend's couch. If they're male and it's winter, they might find housing at the emergency shelter on Statesville Avenue.

At the shelter's previous downtown location, hundreds of men shared one shower and two toilets. But here, where the shelter has been since it moved in November, men have 120 beds, seven shower stalls and seven toilets. It is, by comparison, the Ritz-Carlton of shelters, says shelter associate Willie Bullock.

The Ritz-Carlton, of course, offers a little more than a-hot-and-a-cot. But these new digs are a far cry from the since-demolished building on Fourth Street, where the bathroom was prone to flooding and the stench overwhelmed even those accustomed to making do. Here on Statesville Avenue, the inside seems as clean as a brand-new school on a kid's first day back from summer break.

This winter has been relatively warm, but the shelter on some nights has housed more than 200 men. Many men sleep on the floor. Some choose the floor even when there's a bed available, says Bullock, because they don't want the top bunk.

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