After Decades of Looking Forward, Finally Time to Reflect.

Jan 24, 2024 | by Deronda Metz

One of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever had to complete is writing these words. After more than three decades with The Salvation Army, serving on the front lines on the issue of homelessness in the city I was born and raised in – the city I love – it is time to step aside and enter retirement.

I have given my life and career to helping end homelessness for one person, one family at a time. Now, it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders, and I’ve never been more confident that Charlotte will rise to meet the challenges we face.

When I first began my career with The Salvation Army, our focus was primarily on emergency shelter – the “3 hots and a cot” mindset of meeting people at their point of crisis and providing for their immediate needs of warm meals and a place to sleep. Yes, we still do that today, but we not only address the symptoms of homelessness, but also the source. Today, we have programs focused on the root causes of homelessness. We provide case management, job assistance, access to healthcare, and most importantly, access to housing. I can truly say that I’ve been witness to our team helping to end homelessness for thousands of families in our community.

It has been a privilege to work in the field of social work in the area of homelessness for the past 33 years. As the leader of The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope emergency shelter for almost 25 years, I can say with surety that my time has come. While the work isn’t finished, I’m excited to see a new generation of dedicated social workers continue to build on the progress we’ve made as a community.

It has been a learning experience with much purpose and humility. These years have been marked by trying to figure out how to say “yes,” even when it looks like there is no way. Leading with love always gives you the peace that, yes, it is tough, but we are going to be alright. We as social workers are dedicated to helping individuals better their situations and their lives; however, it is through this work that I feel that I am the one who has become a better person.

I don’t do this for the accolades or recognition. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that it’s hard for me to think about “accomplishments.” I have been so focused on looking ahead that I very rarely take the time to look back. And, there are so many of my colleagues that have helped me along the way. It is truly a team effort.

This occasion provides a natural time to reflect on the past. I’m asked frequently about the most important things we’ve accomplished over the past 30 years as I’ve worked as the Director of Social Services for The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.

  • We expanded our emergency shelter capacity tenfold – from 70 to more than 700 beds.
  • We turned our overnight shelter to a 24/7 program with wraparound day programs including employment assistance, substance abuse and physical and mental health services.
  • We created a low-barrier emergency shelter that became a national best practice program.
  • We restructured our transitional housing program to serve veterans and their families.
  • We partnered with Inlivian, the local housing authority, to create dedicated access to 60 affordable apartment units for families moving from the shelter.
  • We implemented a rapid rehousing to address homelessness with housing.
  • We secured a location for a non-congregate shelter to serve intact families.
  • We implemented a human trafficking program designed to serve Mecklenburg, Union, and Anson counties.
  • I’ve been able to be consistently involved with Mecklenburg County Continuum of Care for 25 years. And, I’ve had the privilege of becoming a strategic homelessness planner on a local, state and national level.

I don’t share these things to be boastful, but rather to acknowledge how far we’ve come as a community and celebrate the countless lives that have been changed.

People retire from jobs. They never retire from passions. That’s why my work at The Salvation Army never felt like a job to me. It has been a calling. Although I am moving on from my role as Director of Social Services for The Salvation Army, my passion for families experiencing homelessness and those being afflicted by past trauma including domestic violence remains. I look forward to continuing to serve my community as God allows.

I am dedicated – for life – to working to keep Charlotte a community where all citizens are able to live and thrive. Thank you to all who are with me in this fight – those who give of themselves to make Charlotte a better place for all.

Recent Stories

Get Involved

A gift to The Salvation Army helps someone in your community.

Give Now



Do Good in your community

Find Worship

Join us throughout the week for worship, fellowship, Bible study, meals, community service and fun.