CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Affordable housing across Charlotte has been an issue long before the pandemic, but now it's even worse.
Many groups are trying to solve the problem but a local nonprofit is taking a different approach to making housing available.
Stephen Vaughn still can't believe it.
"I'm almost speechless," Vaughn said as he sat on his couch going through his mail.
At one point, Vaughn wasn't able to enjoy his own space. He lost his house, his car, and his job after his wife died.
"It just knocked my feet out from under me," Vaughn said.
Now at 69-years-old, he's starting over.
"I had looked to find housing," Vaughn. "It's almost impossible the obstacles are almost unbelievable."
That's where The Lotus Campaign comes in. They pay landlords upfront, in return, the landlords eliminate security deposits, credit checks, and employment records.
"Someone that's experienced homelessness is generally perceived as a risky tenant and that's because they're most likely going to have poor credit and they may or may not have a job," the Lotus Campaign Executive Director, Beth Silverman said.
According to a recent report by The Lotus Campaign, it costs around $800 a year to put someone into an apartment unit. The Landlord Participation Program has housed more than 250 people in Charlotte. Over 290 individuals and families housed and 166 people have renewed their leases or moved on to other housing as of April 2021.
"We're opening up access to housing that nonprofits and their residents don't typically have access to," Silverman said.
The Lotus Campaign focuses on finding the units, while other organizations like RunningWorks find the candidates and help pay for some of their rent.
"We are looking for people who want to change their lives," RunningWorks Founder & Executive Director Meredith Dolhare said.
People who are picked usually aren't chronically homeless. It's people who can be self-sufficient.
"People who are really really going to work for it, 100% of people in our housing program have employment or social security benefits," Dolhare said.
Vaughn said it can be hard work to maintain his place, but it's worth the freedom and affordability.
"Going into my own shower every morning and my soap is where I want it, my shampoo is where I want it," Vaughn said. "I'm in heaven, it's' a blessing that I can't describe."
There are currently six participating landlords and three nonprofit partners.
The group said they're always looking for partners who are willing to take a chance. Funding to put people into units is also a barrier.