With a name like Art Goodson, you are destined to be creative or charitable. Thankfully for some of Charlotte’s homeless, this Art Goodson is both.
Every Christmas season, people talk about being “home for the holidays.” There tends to be something nostalgic and heart-warming about spending time with family and friends, gathering around a home, and enjoying all the familiar sights, sounds and smells that the holidays tend to elicit.
But for many in Charlotte, that isn’t a possibility. That’s not just referring to the more than 250 chronically homeless people living on Charlotte streets, but to those on the brink of homelessness due to rising rents, unsafe neighborhoods, stagnant wages and other life challenges.
That’s where 29-year-old Art Goodson comes in. He isn’t the head of a sprawling anti-homelessness task force or a well-known community figurehead in the fight for affordable housing. He’s a quiet and unassuming accountant – who knows the intrinsic value of having a place to call home – and who just happens to be one of Habitat Charlotte’s most active and dedicated volunteers.
“My grandfather was a homebuilder and he actually built the subdivision my Dad grew up in,” says Goodson. “He even built some of the homes at a discounted price so that people could afford to live there. It was a thriving neighborhood of hardworking African American families. Most neighborhoods were segregated at the time.”
Goodson started off as a member of his campus’ Habitat for Humanity chapter at N.C. State University, even driving home to his native Wake Forest, NC on weekends to help with builds there. Since graduating, he has participated in Habitat builds almost every single weekend for the last seven years.
“I just know how powerful it is for people to help build their own community,” says Goodson. “And the Habitat model – a hand up and not a handout – was attractive to me.”
Habitat for Humanity homebuyers invest “sweat equity” into their community by spending up to 500 hours building theirs and other Habitat homes. After construction, they purchase their homes at cost with zero- or low-interest mortgages. The Habitat Charlotte chapter has served over 1700 families since 1983.
For the last four years, Goodson has also served on the board of Habitat Young Professionals of Charlotte, the young professional’s arm of Habitat Charlotte. Over the course of his tenure, he has helped coordinate monthly builds, recruit volunteers and secure sponsorships for fundraising events.
Ultimately though, it’s being in direct proximity to the people he’s serving that tends to have the greatest impact.
“I think especially in Charlotte it’s so easy to get trapped in your bubbles socially, to really not understand where other people might be coming from, and to not really get to know other people’s stories,” says Goodson. “You really understand how much of a neighbor you are when you try to help them out. By being a part of something bigger than yourself, you can really learn from other people’s experiences and maybe come away a little more grateful and a little more inspired.”