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Hope Tank

Spreading Hope & Good Vibes

Three small words have had one big impact on Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt. “Give hope daily” is both the motto and the goal of their Charlotte-based nonprofit organization, Hope Vibes – the couple’s answer for improving the lives of people without housing.

Emmanuel recognized Adrienne’s compassion for people experiencing homelessness early in their relationship, which began 15 years ago. When Adrienne saw a Facebook video about people without homes who were sleeping outside, she shared the video with Emmanuel. “I looked over at her, and she was just weeping,” Emmanuel said. “She said it just broke her heart. That was a sign that she really had a heart for our homeless neighbors.”

Soon after the couple began occasional work, alongside friends, assisting people in Uptown Charlotte and at the Salvation Army Center of Hope’s Shelter for Women and Children. But it wasn’t until years later, when Adrienne saw another video, that the idea for Hope Vibes was planted. The video was a profile of a homeless woman who explained she had to decide between purchasing feminine hygiene products or food.

Adrienne was stunned by the woman’s predicament. “My friends were just as shocked,” she said. “They asked, ‘So what are you going to do about it?’”

In 2017, when friends started donating personal hygiene items for the homeless people Adrienne and Emmanuel were helping in Charlotte – and the couple began receiving unsolicited financial donations – the Threatts decided to make their volunteer work official. Hope Vibes was born.

 

Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt

 

The mission of Hope Vibes is to “develop creative exit strategies to end homelessness through direct relief, research, innovation, advocacy and systemic disruption.” The nonprofit provides donates personal hygiene products, access to showers and laundry services, as well as human connections and conversations.

By early 2019, Hope Vibes had distributed 1,500 hygiene packs, 10,000 feminine hygiene products, 200 winter items and 80 tents, tarps and blankets to homeless neighbors in need of these items.

Distribution numbers in 2020 ballooned, with the impact of the pandemic hitting our most vulnerable neighbors the hardest. Hope Vibes estimates it has tripled its output since 2019, expanding to offer multiple service days and new locations, including Gastonia.

These amplified efforts made Adrienne a clear choice for the 2021 Nish Jamgotch Jr. Humanitarian Award. Established by a former professor at UNC-Charlotte – Adrienne’s alma mater – the honor recognized those working to improve the human condition and is facilitated by Foundation For The Carolinas.

“Thinking back to the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the formation of what became known as Charlotte’s ‘Tent City’ occupied by people experiencing homelessness, and the response of citizens eager to see change … I cannot help but give homage to all the supporters and volunteers of Hope Vibes and the many other organizations who make up the nonprofit landscape in our city,” said Adrienne of winning the Nish Jamgotch Jr. 2021 Humanitarian Award. “We are living proof that ordinary people can produce extraordinary results that leave our communities better than we found them.”

Hope Tank Was a Dream – Literally

The idea of providing mobile showers for people experiencing homelessness began when Emmanuel was sound asleep.

“I had a dream about a truck with showers and a laundry center inside of it,” he said. “The truck was going around providing help to people that needed it.”

To help with this literal dream project, Hope Vibes turned to the African American Community Foundation, an affiliate of FFTC with a long history of investing in emerging nonprofits.

“(The African American Community Foundation) believed in our vision for the Hope Tank even when it was just an idea on paper,” Adrienne said. “The fact that they were able to believe in our idea and invest in it is huge.”

Keysha Walker Taylor, a former board chair, encouraged Adrienne to apply for a grant after they connected around some Facebook posts about people experiencing homelessness. The foundation awarded a $10,000 grant in 2019 to help Hope Vibes purchase its truck.

“Our board recognized the innovation of Adrienne and Emmanuel’s vision for the Hope Tank,” said Qiana Austin, a vice president at FFTC who manages the African American Community Foundation. “AACF invested in Hope Vibes because they had a truly unique idea with tremendous potential to improve the daily lives of our homeless residents.”

Emmanuel’s dream came true the following year when the Hope Tank was completed. The mobile truck travels to different locations in Charlotte and Gastonia to provide shower and laundry services to people experiencing homelessness. During the weekly “Hope Vibes Serve Days,” volunteers pack kits filled with hygiene products and offer the Hope Tank services to those who need them.

The Hope Tank began as drawings on a whiteboard – evolving to a 24-foot box truck that includes three sets of washers and dryers, and two full restrooms with showers, sinks and toilets. The truck has an onboard water system that allows Hope Vibes to drive it to any location where people experiencing homelessness currently live.

 

Hope Tank washers

 

The Hope Tank serves people in Uptown Charlotte, the Northlake area and Gastonia, alternating twice a week.

Hope Vibes also provides mobile, solar-powered portable sinks that provide a hygiene option for people experiencing homelessness that has been difficult to find since the pandemic began, cutting off access to many public restrooms.

To finish both projects, Hope Vibes received a $50,000 grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund, which was launched by United Way of Central Carolinas and FFTC in March 2020 to assist nonprofits helping those most affected by the pandemic. The grant helped Hope Vibes complete construction of the Hope Tank and mobile sinks.

The body of the Hope Tank includes vivid artwork with splashes of fuchsia, sky blue, yellow and white abstract shapes and designs painted over a black background. Artist Frankie Zombie, one of the artists that created the Black Lives Matter mural in Uptown Charlotte, provided works of abstract art that are featured inside the Hope Tank.

“We wanted to create something that isn’t the leftovers – isn’t something that’s just put together – but very intentional and well thought out to let our homeless neighbors know that they’re valued,” Emmanuel said.

Adrienne said she envisioned the Hope Tank to be “a living and moving artistic mural” that would move not only the people they serve, but anyone who sees it: “I want people to be encouraged and inspired to live out their purpose and not be limited by what they don’t have.”

A Personal Commitment to Giving Hope Daily

One of Hope Vibes’ most dedicated volunteers is Jeremy Moffett. He’s been friends with the Threatts for years, working alongside the couple since their early days of volunteering.

A field network engineer by day, Moffett, who lives in Concord, said he makes himself available to help Hope Vibes with “anything and everything” – whether transporting tables, setting up tents or helping Emmanuel build the Hope Tank.

After living in a shelter as a child with his mother, brother and sister, Moffett knows firsthand what it’s like to live without housing. “It was always a struggle,” he said.

Serving through Hope Vibes gives Moffett a sense of purpose, and his personal admiration for Adrienne and Emmanuel runs deep. He’s witnessed the sacrifices they’ve made so that Hope Vibes can grow.

This deeply personal connection to their work extends to those the Threatts serve. Adrienne recalls a husband and wife in the University area. For years, Hope Vibes has provided the couple with basic needs like hygiene products, tents, sleeping bags and helping them get insulin for diabetes.

Recently, the husband landed a job that he’s been trying to get for a long time. Adrienne and Emmanuel helped the couple move their tent to another side of town so that he could be near his new job. When the Threatts found out he still had a three-mile walk to work, they bought him a bike.

“We also put them in a hotel for his first month of work to help him mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for this new opportunity,” Adrienne said.

This is the essence of the couple’s “give hope daily” mantra. And it’s why the Threatts continue to grow Hope Vibes – recently adding Gastonia as a service area with an eye toward further expansion in the future. They’re also launching the Hope Tank affiliate program to help organizations in other cities create Hope Tanks in their communities.

But their vision doesn’t end with the Hope Tank. To help people out of homelessness, the couple hopes to build small neighborhoods of five-to-10 minimalist homes called HopeStead Communities, where people can transition safely with the support they need. Adrienne and Emmanuel are working with a team of partners across industries – construction, social services, banking, advocacy and creative design – to develop the project.

“This is a dream that we are working to turn into a reality,” Adrienne said. “The goal of HopeStead communities is to help end the cycle of homelessness, one person at a time.”

Since starting their nonprofit, the Threatts have grown in ways they couldn’t have imagined. As they map out the future of Hope Vibes, they can’t help but look back at how far they’ve come.

“This work put a demand on everything inside of us,” Adrienne said about the couple’s journey. “We’ve become prolific storytellers, fundraisers, grant writers, coaches, innovators, project managers and so much more. We’ve learned that we can do a lot with a little.”

To find out more about Hope Vibes, contact Adrienne and Emmanuel at admin@hopevibes.org or visit hopevibes.org.

Alicia Benjamin is a freelance writer, editor and podcaster. She's currently producing a podcast about Black women in film.