Tia and the Mayor of Midwood

“I was about to throw in the towel,” Tia remembers in a particularly overwhelming time in her life.

In 2022, Tia joined Roof Above* as a nurse in their Homeful Housing Program at HillRock Estates. As she introduced herself to the tenants she would serve, she met a familiar face: her old friend James.

Nicknamed the “Mayor of Midwood,” James spent 20 years living on the streets. He often passed the day at the Plaza Midwood Library, reading everything from science fiction novels to nonfiction books about history, archaeology, astronomy and anatomy. That’s where he met Tia, who was studying to become a nurse.

Tia soon became overwhelmed trying to balance her nursing studies with her duties as a mother to four children. One day, she sat down at James’ table. The two eventually struck up a conversation, which led to a friendship, eventually taking turns buying each other lunch from Subway. One day stands out to Tia.

“I was ready to throw in the towel,” she says, “I felt so overloaded.” Then James said something that inspired her to keep going.

“I looked at him and thought, ‘This is why I’m doing this. It’s for this population that needs good health care.’”

Years passed by, Tia graduated, and James continued to struggle with homelessness. The two lost touch until Tia started at Roof Above and knocked on James’ door to introduce herself as his on-site nurse.

Just as James helped Tia persevere through her studies, now Tia is helping James get the tools he needs to monitor his blood pressure and blood sugar in a home of his own.

For Tia, James is more than just a patient. He’s a friend who inspired her to keep going when she felt discouraged. She says reconnecting with James seemed like more than a mere coincidence.

“It was one of those moments when the universe lets you know you’re in the exact place you’re supposed to be at this moment in time.”

Republished and edited with permission from Roof Above

Update: When we reached out to Roof Above for permission to reprint the story, we learned that James had passed away last year. He had been very successful in the Homeful Housing program and had strong community ties. Tia was grateful they reconnected and glad she’d been able to spend the last 18 months of his life with him.

*Roof Above’s mission is to unite the community to end homelessness, one life at a time. The nonprofit was born out of the merger of Urban Ministry Center and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, two prominent organizations long recognized as community leaders in homeless services.

Community, Libraries Matter, Library Locations

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