Happy Friday everyone!
According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Point-in-Time Count Report, 2009-2016, 1,818 individuals are estimated to be homeless in our community. The report highlights that African-Americans are disproportionally affected at 78 percent in a county where they make up only 32 percent of the population. 44 percent are female, 23 percent are children, and 3 percent are Latino. Experts acknowledge that this is likely an underrepresentation of the true number of those experiencing homeless based on the way the count is conducted. Still, the method is designed to provide insight, a window if you will, into the current state of affairs on a single night in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region.
The need to end this epidemic is something that I think we can all agree on. And interestingly enough, there are 2 concerted efforts underway to do just that.
One is focused specifically on those that meet the definition of ‘chronically homeless’. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a person is chronically homeless if he/she has at least one disabling condition and has experienced a continuous year of homelessness or has had four episodes of homelessness over the last three years. A family can be considered chronically homeless if the above conditions apply to the head of household. It’s important to note that the ‘chronically homeless’ are a very narrow subset of the larger population experiencing homelessness.
This effort is known as the Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg initiative. In the first week of 2015, a coalition of government, businesses, nonprofits and churches announced that they plan to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. Contributors to the effort include the Urban Ministry, Charlotte Center City Partners, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte Housing Authority, Foundation for the Carolinas, Crisis Assistance Ministries, A Child's Place, and many, many others.
The initiative has 8 major components.
- Create a registry and monitoring progress
- Expand outreach efforts to build trust and move the chronically homeless to housing
- Create new permanent supportive housing units including at least one single site building
- Train organizations and staff in the Housing First model
- Engage the community to be part of the solution
- Move-in strategy
- Ensure adequate leadership
- Evaluate the effort
The registry was begun in January of last year, where over a 3-day period, more than 250 volunteers searched on streets and in camps, shelters, jails, soup kitchens, hospitals, and other areas throughout Mecklenburg County. The search ultimately identified 516 individuals who met the definition of chronically homeless.
Initiative leaders actually held a presentation last night (Thursday, June 9) at the Levine Museum of the New South to educate the community about the effort, provide an update, and inform residents how they can get involved. I attended the presentation and I’m pleased to tell you there are significant strides being made!
From 2015 to 2016 decreases were found in:
- Chronic homelessness – a 39 percent decrease, to 170 people.
- Veterans experiencing homelessness – a 19 percent decrease, to 149 people.
- Adults with children (family homelessness) – a decrease of 14 percent, to 650 people
- Unaccompanied youth – a decrease of 8 percent, to 78 people.
A small increase from 2015 to 2016 was found in unsheltered homelessness (up 4 percent, or 7 people).
Note: the above results originate from the Point in Time report and are not specific to the Housing First Initiative, which deploys a different registry methodology.
Its worth noting that while tons of work is being done to get families placed into affordable housing, just as much work is going into changing peoples' perceptions and preconceived notions about those experiencing homelessness. Part of that includes not referring to the individuals themselves as "'homeless'" (which labels them based on their situation) but rather using the phrase "'experiencing homelessness." Often, these are talented professionals, teachers, engineers, artisans..., you name it, that simply fell upon hard times, lost their housing, and in many cases did not have a support network that kept them off the streets. The study points out, however, that you don't have to be sleep outdoors, in a car, or in a shelter to be qualify as homeless, as many are constantly forced to transition between the homes of family and friends.
Alas, despite the very noteworthy successes, there is still much work to be done. Founded in 1994, the Urban Ministry Center is an interfaith organization dedicated to bringing the community together to end homelessness, one life at a time. Naturally, it’s a leading partner in the Housing First initiative. The Center serves as a point of entry to services offered by a network of agencies that work closely together to provide necessary opportunities for the Charlotte homeless population, drawing support and volunteers from more than 130 houses of faith, according to its website.
You may have seen via our social media that we’ve teamed up with the Urban Ministry to create a sweet t-shirt for Street Soccer 945, the Charlotte chapter of a worldwide soccer league which helps homeless men and women use soccer as a tool to learn life skills and commitment while getting back on their feet. How cool is it that what is now a worldwide league got its start right here in Charlotte?! Sales proceeds benefit the Urban Ministry Center and SS945. The Street Soccer Invitational is actually being held this weekend (June 10-12) at Midtown Park and Romare Bearden Park. So go out, root for the teams, and help build social capital in the community by purchasing a shirt!
The second and broader effort is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Ten Year Plan to End and Prevent Homelessness being led by the Housing Advisory Board of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a community based board appointed to put the plan into action. The plan was released in 2006 and separately runs parallel to the Housing First initiative.
Until next week!
Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Find all previous Fact Friday blog posts by clicking here.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass