Mike Edge was homeless for four years. He spent a few nights on a friend’s couch. He slept in his car. When he lost his car, he slept in the woods.
“On paper, I looked like a horrible human being,” said Edge, 35.
A work injury in 2004 started Edge’s downward spiral. A doctor prescribed drugs to ease his pain.
“In a year, I was an addict, abusing drugs and in a comatose state, unable to meet the needs of my kids,” Edge said.
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Child Protective Services removed his children in 2009.
“I wasn’t abusive,” said Edge, whose late wife committed suicide in 2012. “I just neglected my kids and became homeless at that point.”
The turning point for Edge came when he got help for his drug addiction at The Healing Place of Wake County. He met Amy at the center, and they got married after completing the program.
The couple was then referred to The Carying Place, a nonprofit in Cary that helps families in need. Edge and his wife moved into a transitional home in Cary.
“Holding those keys was a game-changer, and then getting help with budgeting money led to an apartment of our own,” said Edge, who regained custody of one of his children and maintains a relationship with his other three children.
Edge said relationships and connections helped him get back on his feet. Now he is the spokesman for The Carying Place and considers volunteering a way to give back to others.
“I am a fisher of men, showing others they can beat homelessness,” said Edge, referencing Bible verse Matthew 4:19.
The Carying Place staff and volunteers coordinate resources for families. The first step is placement into one of the group’s seven transitional homes in Cary. Once placed, the family has 16 weeks to find a permanent home.
Lyndsay Bui is the children’s program coordinator at The Carying Place. Her job is to help kids with stability, clothing and screening for therapeutic needs.
“The biggest challenge is finding affordable housing in Cary,” said Bui, 27, who lives in Holly Springs.
Bui turned to Project CATCH (Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless) to find more resources.
CATCH is the only program in North Carolina that is designed to coordinate care for children without homes.
“We have to work together,” Bui said. “We can’t ignore the problem of homelessness.”
CATCH partners with 11 shelters in the area and several nonprofit groups. Referrals to the group are up 200 percent. CATCH also screens children to determine the extent of trauma and developmental delays.
“Children come to CATCH completely stressed out, often having been shuffled from one house, shelter, hotel to another for years,” said Jen Tisdale, coordinator for Project CATCH.
Each month, CATCH partners meet to share resources, discuss needs and hear a speaker from a new resource. The program is in the final days of a three-year grant from the John Rex Endowment and Smart Start.
The need for more support for homeless children is on the rise. Wake County schools reported that school children without a stable home rose by 9 percent from 2012 to 2013.
It takes more than a village to raise a homeless child – it takes dedicated people and programs like CATCH.
“We are looking for donations to keep ourselves going, new partners for services for children that we can bring into the shelter and anyone who can help us with a really great fundraiser so we can continue to help these lost children who would otherwise fall through the cracks,” Tisdale said.