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Talking 'Ish' with ... 

Uptown Shelter resident Donnie Whimbush

December is a common time for concern about the plight of the needy, particularly the homeless and the hungry, but homeless people like 26-year-old Donnie Whimbush reside in Charlotte's crowded shelters throughout the year. The Uptown Shelter, where Whimbush stays, is as crowded as ever, with more than 250 men housed in a space with only 200 beds.

A native of Abbeville, S.C., Whimbush had ridden in to Charlotte on a Greyhound bus only one week before talking with Creative Loafing about his experience so far.

Creative Loafing: What brought you here?

Donnie Whimbush: Opportunity. I'm trying to find a business partner for a record label.

Were you taking a shot in the dark or had someone told you to come to Charlotte?

The Lord put it in my heart to come up here ... so I moved by faith.

Before you came here, what did you do?

I was in Anderson, S.C. first. I was at the Salvation Army shelter. I basically worked at Dairy Queen. But never stopped dreaming though, never stopped dreaming

So before you came to Charlotte, you'd had times of homelessness before?

I was never outside in the cold. I was adopted. I was never homeless.

Estimates of how many homeless people there are also include people who are staying at shelters. You don't consider yourself homeless?

Un-uh. I wouldn't say homeless because we're like a family here. It's just a family atmosphere. As far as not having a place of my own, in that sense, yeah. But since I'm here around people who [are] really dedicated to rebuilding my life and people who really want to do better with their lives.

Do I feel homeless? Yes and no. This is a family atmosphere here. And [I've] truly just been blessed to be around this, praise the Lord.

When you got here and you got off the bus at the Greyhound station, what did you do from there?

I talked to a police officer, and I needed a hotel to stay at. A cab was outside. The police officer actually was very, very helpful talking to the cab driver and helping me get to the closest hotel to the shelter. I stayed at the Queen City Inn. I stayed there. The cab driver was telling me about the shelter, and what time to get up there. I did exactly what he said. I caught the bus and came to the shelter.

So did you think there would be a bed here for you? Or did you think you might just get a place on the floor?

I came open-minded, just open-minded.

What is it like sleeping on the floor?

When I first thought about it, I was like, on the floor? [But] once I got in -- with the conditions, with the heat and everything like that -- it's really comfortable. I don't have any negative thing to say about it.

How long do you think you'll be staying here?

I really don't know. Can I say something about people sleeping on the streets? I just want to encourage somebody that's on the streets. I was talking to a guy who slept under a bridge, and he had to heat himself with his urine. And he came [to the shelter] and he stepped up to the plate. I saw his ID from then. [Now] it's like a whole different change.

It's like having a cold. You don't start out having a cold; you start out normal. Once you catch a cold, if you don't want to treat that cold, you get used to having that cold. I'm just encouraging somebody who's thinking about coming to the Uptown Shelter -- don't get used to having that cold. There is medicine here; there are people who want to help you to rebuild your life. I'm just encouraging people to come out and give this a chance.

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