Items donated to Da Village Pop-Up Shop for families in need.
Charlotte volunteers for Da Village Pop-Up Shop on June 15, 2019. Photo: Nakisha Washington

In April, Mecklenburg County and United Way of Central Carolinas released a joint report assessing the capacity and utilization of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s emergency shelter system. According to the report, more than 5,000 people in Charlotte-Mecklenburg experienced sheltered homelessness — whether in an emergency shelter or transitional housing — between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017. One of those people was Shamelle Jackson, founder of Da Village Pop-Up Shop, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that provides resources to homeless citizens.

I’ve been following the organization’s Instagram account for some time and recently decided to volunteer. The events are family-friendly, so I brought my children, ages 5 and 11. For me, it was important that they not only help provide resources to the homeless population but also connect with the people we served. They were especially interested in how homelessness affects children.

As we passed out water bottles, hung clothes on racks and prepared plates, I chatted with Jackson to learn more about Da Village. Check out our conversation below.

What is Da Village Pop-Up Shop? Who does it serve?

Da Village Pop-Up Shop is a nonprofit organization that I started to provide food and daily living necessities to homeless citizens. We provide new and gently used clothing, hygiene and cosmetic items for homeless and low-income citizens in Charlotte as well as across the country.

We set up clothing racks and mannequins for people to shop. I wanted it to feel like shopping at a store in the mall. It’s a great time. Vendors sponsor food, there’s music, and it really creates a sense of community.

Items donated to Da Village Pop-Up Shop. No money is exchanged, but Jackson wanted families to feel the experience of shopping at a store in the mall. Photo courtesy of Da Village Pop-Up Shop

Why is serving the homeless important to you?

Shamelle Jackson

I am a single mother of four and a survivor of domestic violence. I dropped out of high school and later earned my GED. My father recently passed away from a drug overdose. I have also lived in a shelter while pregnant with my third child. I relate to homeless citizens because I’ve been there. I feel that it’s my responsibility to serve this community with love and compassion. No judgment.

You’ve had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of people who are homeless. What have you learned from hearing their stories that you didn’t know before?

I have learned that a lot of homeless citizens are smart and extremely talented. Many have had great careers and lives. It’s just that they’ve experienced unfortunate situations. Honestly, there are working people who are a few paychecks away from similar situations. People make assumptions that people who are homeless are not educated, unwilling to work or live with addictions…and that’s not true.

How can people get involved or donate? What items do you need the most?

We are always in need of seasonal items such as sunscreen, gloves and coats. We also need gently used shoes, socks, canned goods, hygiene and toiletry items.

To donate or volunteer, email Meekmelly4@gmail.com or call 704-780-7196.

Nakisha Washington is a journalist who interviewed America’s first self-made female billionaire, a presidential candidate and her favorite reality TV personality all within 72 hours. Catch her talking career and lifestyle tips to curious millennials on her blogtheprofashionalist.com.