Motels in Charlotte are looking to make a lot of money off people attending the Democratic National Convention, but some homeless families in the area will end up suffering as a result. According to the New York Daily News, people are getting kicked out of their rooms, to make way for tourists looking to pay more money. “They kicked me and my kids out like we were trash,” said Lakia Ramsey. The 26-year-old homeless mother of two was paying $200 a week for a room at the Arlington Suites, but after the rates were raised to $150 per night, she had to leave.
Ramsey, her 2-year-old daughter, and 4-year-old son, were able to find shelter at a local church, but her story is not unlike that of dozens in the city. “These are folks who are on the edge of homelessness and they're eking out an existence,” explained executive director of the Urban Ministry Center, Dale Mullenix.
Belinda Cherry and her husband, Steven, were also forced to find another place to stay, after the motel increased the prices. Cherry's husband works part-time as a dishwasher, and the couple sleeps on a loading dock outside of an abandoned building because they can't afford to go anywhere else. “I'm really pissed off. We were just now getting on our feet,” Cherry said.
It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million people experience homelessness in any given year, but given the crippled economy, and the unemployment rate, many families are finding themselves unable to pay the bills. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness the average income of the working poor increased by less than one percent in 2010, bringing the amount from a $9,3000 salary to $9,400. Statistics revealed that there was not a single county in the nation where a family with an annual income of $9,400 was able to afford the market rent on a one-bedroom apartment.
However, homelessness has decreased by 1 percent between 2009 and 2011, due in part to federal resources, to prevent people from ending up on the street. The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, is a $1.5 billion effort aimed at halting the increase in homelessness due to the recession. During it's first year, the organization helped nearly 700,000 people at-risk of being homeless.
Aside from jacking up room rates at different motels, Charlotte hopes to make money off the DNC no matter the industry. Vendors in the area are selling memorabilia, while the city is banking on the media coverage to bring extra attention to the area. “As a one-time event, the DNC certainly doesn't compare with having the NFL here every Sunday,” noted Charlotte's former mayor, Richard Vinroot. “But on a national and international stage, I can't think of anything bigger than this, other than the Super Bowl or the Olympics.”
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Photos: New York Daily News/Reuters