Housed in the beautiful, historic Masonic Temple building in downtown Charlotte, the SIREN/Eaton Shelter began as two separate agencies. SIREN, a domestic violence shelter, was run by volunteers who staffed the hotline and produced a newsletter. Eaton Shelter focused on homelessness.
In 1996, both were in danger of closing, so they merged into one agency that offers emergency shelter, transitional housing, case management and resource referrals, life skills instruction and a basic needs bank.
Jessica Edel-Harrison, the shelter’s executive director since July 2011, said the number of people facing domestic violence and homelessness in the Charlotte area is on the rise.
“Looking at the numbers from last year, the number of people we’re serving has never been this high,” she said. “We had to increase our budget substantially to meet those needs.”
SIREN/Eaton Shelter offers both emergency shelter (short-term housing of 15 to 90 days) and transitional housing, meant for families working to resolve homelessness but needing more than 90 days to rebuild their lives. The agency rents about two dozen single-family units and has two larger, multi-family spaces.
It’s called the “scattered site” model, meaning the homes or apartments are located throughout the county. That way, once clients get back on their feet, they’re able to remain in their home and take over rent payments. Edel-Harrison said the $10,000 SIREN/Eaton Shelter received in 2011 from the Community Foundation has been vital to its success.
“It’s hard to get grants to pay for things such as gas cards and rent on our domestic violence shelter,” she said. “Unrestricted dollars from the Community Foundation enable us to cover those expenses.” The agency has 90 to 110 people under its roofs on an average night, and 60 percent are children.