Demand rising at United Family Services

Phil Kline
Phil Kline

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At the end of 1998, Phil Kline retired as vice president of human resources at Royal & SunAlliance after a 27-year career with the company.

At the end of 2010, he retired again, this time as president and CEO of the Mint Museum after an nine-year career with the nonprofit.

And on Jan. 3, he began a new job as president and CEO of United Family Services, a week ahead of time and foregoing a scheduled vacation.

“It quickly became clear I needed to go ahead and get started,” Kline says.

The impetus, he says, is the rising demand for services at the agency, which last year served over 50,000 people, as well as the need to complete a capital campaign to raise $10 million for a new facility to replace the group’s 29-bed Shelter for Battered Women that opened in 1979.

Construction of the 80-bed facility will not begin until United Family Services raises $7.5 million.

Co-chaired by Crandall Bowles, former CEO of Springs Industries, and Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, the effort already has raised $5.1 million.

Last year, the shelter provided a safe haven and support for 562 women and children.

Because of the limited number of beds, however, the average stay is only 30 days, and support services are limited, Kline says.

The new facility will be able to provide not only short-term emergency housing but also transitional housing for three to six months, as well as education and training services to prepare women to become independent.

The new shelter will be built on an 11-acre campus to serve women in crisis that also will be home for a new 90-bed facility for the Charlotte Rescue Mission to replace its 12-bed Dove’s Nest program for women with substance-abuse problems.

The bad economy, by creating stress on families, has resulted in greater demand for the shelter as well as United Family Services’ other programs.

The agency itself has taken a hit from the recession, with some staff reductions and a big decrease in funding from United Way of Central Carolinas, although part of that funding has been restored.

The agency’s leadership team also took a 4 percent pay cut, and the rest of the staff took a 1 percent cut, all of which were restored last July.

Programs the agency provides include services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; counseling, education and clinical services for mental health, and credit counseling and housing assistance to help people avoid foreclosure, with all those services offered in Mecklenburg County and in satellite offices in Union County, the Mooresville/Lake Norman area and Concord; and a child advocacy center in Union County that serves as a one-stop shop for children who are victims of sexual abuse.

In 2010, the agency helped save 800 homes by working with homeowners, helping them restructure their debt and renegotiate their loans with financial institutions, Kline says.

The agency also provided those clients with counseling on their credit-card debt and on developing debt-repayment plans.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in demand in credit counseling, housing and also in clinical services as people are struggling to cope with the pressure of the economy and the effect that it’s having,” Kline says. “And the rate of domestic violence has continued to increase.”

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