Charlotte Wingard is a hero in Mississippi who you may not have heard about. She is not the type of person to brag about what she does or toot her own horn.
Charlotte and her late husband Roy had a vision to help the people and community in Jackson. In fact, they dedicated their entire lives to giving people with no home or hope just those two things. They provided them with a shelter, food, love, addiction help, counseling, and opportunities they never would have been able to get on their own. They started a haven called, “Wingate Home”. This non-profit has changed so many lives and continues to do so.
“One of my greatest advantages today is that I have been where the homeless are…I have felt the pain, so I am able to identify with them
and respond in a way that only personal experience launch.”
Charlotte and her late husband literally opened their home and made it a safe haven for others. She doesn’t simply clock in and work from 9:00-5:00. She lives with all of the people who they help, and she does life with them on a daily basis.
My heart, my passion, to serve Jesus by loving people to the cross is to critique my own life and profession which is “living with” and “ministering to” the homeless, abandoned, and battered. I can clearly see what God has done in my life, but the needed posture in my profession is to be knowledgeable enough to take what God has done and use it to help others, not only in testimony, but also in instruction and lifestyle.”
When speaking with Charlotte, her genuine heart and love for others, is so evident. She explained what her plan is for combating homelessness, and all of the struggles that people may have in life.
“The only effective plan for combating homelessness, destitution, abandonment, addiction, gross poverty, or domestic violence is a cumulative plan which will act as a strategic conduit of encouragement. Our clients are empowered through our program. They are able then to develop a sense of “worth-full-ness”. This is accomplished through engagement in classes and individual guidance toward self-determination. When we can piggy-back off this, we are enabling their successful rehabilitation as they need it to happen.”
What is Wingard Home?
Wingard Home sits in the heart of downtown Jackson. It has been operating since 1990. It is a haven and shelter for those who need a place to stay and food to eat. This long-term transition home serves the homeless men, women, children, and families of Jackson and the surrounding area by providing safe, secure and comfortable housing in a supportive Christian environment. They also provide healthy meals, snacks, clothing, job, medical, social service referrals, and transportation.
Charlotte and her late husband Roy both overcame homelessness and made it their life’s mission to open their doors to others and give them a hand up.
This wonderful organization serves up to 60 people on any given day. Their primary goal is to get men and women on their feet and working at jobs, independent of government and community assistance.
Residents who stay here spend their days looking for work or at work or school and then come home to a place that is wholesome, clean, cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. All snacks are provided by local businesses and restaurants. They are encouraged to save their money by packing brown bag lunches and taught the value of an earned “dollar” by Biblical budgeting and financial skills to prepare them for independent living.
How does Wingard Home operate?
The nonprofit is sustained solely by private donors. Wingard Home, Inc. is a state registered, non-profit organization with tax-exempt status under IRS 501 (c)(3). They do not accept contributions from city, state, or federal government. Their work is completely contingent on the charity of individuals and foundations.
The mission of Wingard Home:
“Wingard Home is a long-term transition home for the homeless and displaced of Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area. We are dedicated to keeping the family unit intact. Unlike the “shelters.” Wingard Home takes a holistic approach to solve the problems of homelessness. At the Jackson Campus, we house married couples and parents with children together as part of our commitment to the family values that are so much a part of American life. Our mission is to get men, women, children and families off the streets, our of government welfare trap, and working toward independence and financial stability. We offer our residents alternatives to gang life and the drug culture and provide options to dependence on food stamps and government bail-out programs.”
Why Employment for Residents is Key:
Residents who come and stay with Charlotte and her family must seek and attain gainful employment
Charlotte explained that by the residents getting employment, it helps them to feel better about themselves, and gives them more hope for the future.
“Motivating people toward employment is only the threshold to many other doors that will need to be opened. My job in ministry is to encourage, empower, engage, evangelize, brother needed services, and to guide my clients toward the accomplishment of their dreams.”
Charlotte explained that God created mankind in His image, placing inside each person a need for family and community.
“This is not only a need, but is a fulfillment of emotional, physical, and spiritual mandates placed inside human beings by the creator. Additionally, my clients need to be given the opportunity to self-determine in order to achieve success and to fulfill the needs within themselves. In my daily ministering, I observe the behavior patterns and actions of folks who move in here at the ministry, get “cleaned up”, get a job, begin to work, save their money, begin to feel good about themselves and then purposefully mis-direct themselves into failure…this is a cycle that must be broken. Jesus is the bondage breaker because his work on the cross was about freedom, not bondage.”
Charlotte is 68 years old and has quite the inspiring life story. She is the mother of seven children, 2 stepchildren, and 16 grandchildren. She has custody of three of her grandchildren who are 13, 11, and 9 years old.
35-years-ago, Charlotte and her children became homeless. She said this life event was a game changer for her family.
“The most important thing that I was given in this dark place was opportunity to make my own choices. I was empowered and encouraged to learn how to make the best choices for me and my children. On the other side of that opportunity to finally succeed, was my deliverance from the prison cell that I, myself, had created.”
Charlotte said when she became an adult, she made some pretty poor decisions in life. She found herself homeless with two children in tow in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I was digging for food in the garbage cans inside the food court at Gwinnett Mall in Atlanta, Georgia. With my two children in tow, I would watch and wait for partially eaten burgers, fries, and left-over pizza slices to be thrown into the trash. Then, I would shamelessly retrieve them to feed my two young children and myself so that we would not go hungry. We were homeless, penniless, scared to tears, and still too proud because of my up-bringing to ask my family or anyone else for help.”
It was a humbling experience for Charlotte because before she was homeless, she had been a proud independent business owner with her own bank account, vehicles, and a home. In her mind, she was successful and in control of her life and didn’t need anyone’s help with anything.
Finally, in the summer of 1988, broken desperation caused her to finally reach out for help. She was laying in her car crying with her children asleep next to her when she realized she needed to ask for help. Charlotte said she cried out to God.
A couple in Lawrenceville Georgia, John and Carrol Quinn, offered to help Charlotte and her children. They were tough-love people but were also compassionate and knowledgeable. Charlotte said they loved her without a reason and gave her an opportunity to regain my dignity. They took care of, fed, and clothed Charlotte and her kids until she could do it herself. Charlotte said they made opportunities available for her, without doing everything for her. This helped her to grow strong again and helped spark the vision in her heart of what she wanted to do for others.
“This is my reason, more than any other factor in my life, for wanting to use the stage of evangelism and the profession of social work to help others learn to not only survive,
but to thrive and be not only self-sufficient, but to be God-sufficient.”
Charlotte’s life partner, Roy, went to be with the Lord in 2022 after serving alongside his wife for 34 years. He suffered a massive stroke after he had been hospitalized for six months with covid and a flesh-eating bacteria.
Charlotte said that the couple was given custody of hundreds of teens that no one else would receive with the self-challenge of loving them unconditionally, assuring their opportunity for educational advancement and teaching them the daily life skills that are normally taught by parents.
“I continue in ministry without him by my side now because this is my life work and my passion. Through my faith in God and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I am best able to move forward in evangelism by helping all those who come into this ministry. Jesus ministers to me and is healing my broken heart as I move forward in the journey without Roy. God created all people in His image, and I believe he wants us to find a foundation of some sort and build on that to develop a witness platform in that person’s life. The love of God will conquer all fear and prejudices.”