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'I have to stay focused on my children' | Lack of affordable housing hurting Gaston County families

Gateway Gaston reports the county has a 65-bed shelter, but at least 200 to 300 homeless people.

GASTONIA, N.C. — With the expiration of the pandemic eviction moratorium, Gaston County could see a 45% spike in the number of homeless people, according to the Gateway Gaston and The Lotus Group.

Dwayne Burks, the founder of Gateway Gaston, which connects people in crisis with resources, said they're experiencing a 78% rise in the number of daily calls from people seeking help.

"We have two challenges. One, we have far more people in need than we have housing," Burks said. "We also, in this county, don't have a clearly defined pathway out of homelessness. It is pretty scattered and fragmented."

He said the county has about 2,200 available units, but the median rent is over $800-a-month.

Osvaldo Pardillo sought assistance from the Gateway Gaston. He and his three children, two of whom are toddlers, are living in a hotel room.

Pardillo has a criminal history, including a 2019 arrest and subsequent conviction in Virginia for embezzlement. But, he said he got back on track working as an auto detailer and living in a house with his girlfriend, but he lost his job due to the pandemic.

He said his girlfriend, the mother of two of his kids, left. This forced his family to leave their house because he couldn't afford to pay rent.

Pardillo said a relative offered for him to come stay at his house in Gastonia while he picked himself up once again.

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"I noticed that they were doing things that they weren't supposed to do," Pardillo said. "I couldn't have my kids there so I immediately removed us from that house."

Pardillo said he has to check out on Thursday morning because he can't afford another night in the hotel.

"I have to stay focused on my children," Pardillo said. "I have to find a way out of a hotel and put them in a home."

Burks said Pardillo's case is representative of many cases Gateway Gaston works to solve.

"Based on what we know, this case seems like the perfect storm," Burks said. "[He] came here from out-of-state to reestablish, as it were, moved in with family and friends, and it just fell apart."

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He said the lack of an adequate supply of affordable housing results in people like Pardillo renting hotel rooms.

"We have a wonderful shelter, but we only have 65 beds in it," Burks said. "We know we have at least 200 to 300 homeless people. Probably closer, based on the school system's estimate, probably closer to 500 or 600 throughout the county."

He said a stable residence is a critical step to lifting families out of the cycle of homelessness.

Pardillo said he's trying to find work, but he doesn't have a car, and he has to take care of his three children, including one who has cerebral palsy and another who has autism.

He said having a steady, affordable place to stay would make life better for his family.

"It would be a nice impact," Pardillo said. "Everything will go back to normal. A lot of stress will be off my shoulders."

For more information on the Gateway Gaston, click here.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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