Talking Policy

Talking Policy in the Queen City 2024

Talking Policy – Addressing Homelessness and Housing Policy in the Carolinas

April 25, 2024

7:00 p.m. with a student poster session and reception with light refreshments at 6 p.m.

The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City

320 E. 9th St, Charlotte, NC 28202


Faculty and Staff: To use your University parking pass, you must purchase a non-discounted permit and add CCB permission to your permit at the time of purchase.

Open to the public at no charge

Public Policy PhD Program

Register Here

In the 6th Annual Talking Policy in the Queen City, presented by The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Public Policy Ph.D. Program, our panelists will share their expertise and insights gained from academia, research, and firsthand experience in the Charlotte community. Each speaker brings a unique perspective, contributing to a comprehensive dialogue that aims to deepen our understanding of the complex issues surrounding homelessness and housing policy. The Ph.D. program, which has operated for over 20 years, also presents a research poster presentation session to highlight the work of its doctoral students with a light reception. Learn more about the Public Policy Program.


  • Gain insights into the latest research findings and academic perspectives on homelessness and housing policy.
  • Hear firsthand experiences and initiatives from community leaders actively addressing the issue.
  • Participate in a Q&A session to engage directly with the panelists.

Moderating this panel will be former Charlotte Mayor, Jennifer Roberts.

Meet our Panelists:

Stephanie Southworth, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Co-Director of the Community Change Initiative
Community Change Initiative – Coastal Carolina University

Stephanie Southworth, PhD is an assistant professor of sociology at Coastal Carolina University. Her research focuses on structural causes of food and housing insecurity. Over the past seven years she and her colleague have interviewed over 400 people experiencing homelessness. two hundred and fifty of the interviews are included in her coauthored book, Homelessness in the 21st Century: Living the Impossible American Dream, Routledge, 2023.

Lori Thomas, PhD
Executive Director
Urban Institute and Charlotte Regional Data Trust

Lori Thomas, Ph.D., is the executive director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Charlotte Regional Data Trust and an associate professor of social work. As executive director, she leads the work of community-engaged researchers and graduate students and facilitates use of integrated data by faculty researchers and community organizations. A Tennessee native, Dr. Thomas holds a master‘s and Ph.D. in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her scholarship includes systemic and programmatic responses to homelessness and housing instability across the lifespan, building from more than 15 years of experience as a practitioner and scholar.

Warren Wooten
Assistant Director – City of Charlotte – Affordable Housing
Housing & Neighborhood Services

With an extensive 20-year career spanning nonprofit organizations, local government, and the private sector, Warren brings a wealth of experience to the realm of housing, business development, and community infrastructure. Currently serving as the Assistant Director of Affordable Housing for Charlotte, North Carolina, Warren oversees a substantial annual budget exceeding $35 million. In this role, he drives initiatives ranging from homelessness prevention to facilitating homeownership, contributing to the vibrant growth of the community.

Warren is a lifelong learner with degrees from George Mason University and NC State University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Warren is also a proud UNC Charlotte student pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy. Warren resides in Matthews with his wife and daughters.

Shamaiye K Haynes
QC Family Tree

Shamaiye Haynes is a lifelong champion for social justice who relocated from Cincinnati to Charlotte in 2012. She is most known for her efforts to improve education outcomes for children and their families. Her career as Co-Director of QC Family Tree in Enderly Park has afforded her the opportunity to become more invested in expanding affordable housing. She is leading the effort to shift the organization from being a small landlord to becoming an affordable housing developer as an anti-displacement, equity, and wealth-building strategy for marginalized people.

About the Moderator:

Jennifer Roberts
Former Mayor of Charlotte
Carter Center, President Carter’s Foundation & co-founder of the Reimagining America Project

Jennifer Watson Roberts is a former Mayor of Charlotte and a lifelong champion of issues related to education and equality. She is the first person to be elected to serve as both Chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commission and later as Mayor of Charlotte.  She is the former Mecklenburg County Commission Chair, and former Director of the Path to Positive Communities Program with ecoAmerica, a national non-profit working on climate action in the United States. Since 2021 she has been working with the Carter Center, President Carter’s Foundation, with its program to support democracy and fair and secure elections in the US. She is also the co-founder of the Reimagining America Project, which is a community effort to tackle the impact of historic racism on many issues in our region, including housing policy.

Roberts was instrumental in creating a public/private partnership to build a new shelter in Charlotte for survivors of domestic violence and spearheaded the creation of Charlotte NEXT, an initiative dedicated to improving after school programs for at-risk teens. During her tenure as Mayor, the City of Charlotte set a goal of funding 5,000 affordable housing units over 3 years and is currently on track to exceed that goal.

Mayor Roberts also led the passage of a Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance that included the LGBTQ community.  Though this NDO was later struck down by the NC General Assembly, this discriminatory action by the state led to national attention, boycotts, and eventual (partial) reversal of the law known as HB2.  In addition, more transgender candidates than ever ran for office around the country in the year following, and many have been elected.

Roberts has also been a life-long advocate for clean air and water and for environmental justice.  While Chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission, she championed a Park and Rec Master Plan, supported energy reduction and conservation in County operations, and headed a Clean Air Works initiative to reduce carbon emissions in area businesses and the County’s carbon footprint.  As mayor, she signed the Mayor’s Climate Pledge and introduced a Clean Energy Resolution for the City of Charlotte.

She has worked as a diplomat for the State Department, as an international banker, as an adjunct professor at UNC Charlotte, and as a high school math teacher.  She currently serves on numerous community boards and commissions, including Meck Ed, Caldwell Presbyterian Creation Care Team, Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network, Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders, Reimagining America Project, and more.

Roberts is a proud recipient of the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead award, the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Public Policy Leader of the Year award, and Equality North Carolina’s Ally of the Year award.  She received her B.A. with highest honors in English from UNC-Chapel Hill, a Masters in European History from the University of Toronto, and a Masters in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. 

How to Attend: RSVP now to secure your spot at this insightful panel discussion. Admission is free, and light refreshments will be provided. Advanced registration is required.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a meaningful conversation about shaping policies that impact our community.


Sponsored by the UNC Charlotte Public Policy Doctoral Program, the Dean’s Office of the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences and the Sociology Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Supported by the Pam Fawcett-Brandon and William P. Brandon Endowment for the Graduate Public Policy Program

Interested in learning more about the Public Policy PhD program, join us for a virtual Information Session