Homelessness in Charlotte: What Can We Possibly Do About It? | SHARE Charlotte

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Homelessness in Charlotte: What Can We Possibly Do About It?

Written by Addie Rising    on February 9, 2017
Throughout the month of February, SHARE Charlotte will explore homelessness in Charlotte by looking at the work of some of our nonprofit partners and their volunteers.  You may see a lot of terms that are helpful to know. See our glossary to help navigate the issue.

Charlotte is thriving, growing by leaps and bounds. Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country ranking 10th in population growth among U.S. cities with at least 50,000 residents, 2015 census estimates showed. Traffic seems to increase daily and brand new, expensive apartment buildings are going up all over town. 

But, if you spend any time driving around Charlotte, especially on North Tryon just blocks from Uptown Charlotte, you will undoubtedly see some of our homeless neighbors. Some of these neighbors have been living on the streets for years (chronically homeless). Others have suffered a series of events that have left no other options for housing. Each situation is different and requires different assistance solutions. 

How many are there? 
Homelessness in Charlotte
That’s not as easy to answer as you might think. Different organizations look at different statistics and with good reason. Our local shelters and organizations that work with the chronically homeless rely on the annual Point in Time Count (PIT Count), a count of individuals and families in shelters and out of shelters on a given night in Charlotte. This count, while extremely helpful in determining the number of both sheltered and unsheltered neighbors the community has, does not include those who may have found temporary housing in hotels, motels or with friends and neighbors. This group accounts for the largest number of Charlotte’s homeless populations, but it’s also the toughest to accurately count. 

Last year’s PIT Count (January 2016) revealed that 1,818 people were experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County. 187 were unsheltered, 482 were in transitional housing and 1,149 were in emergency shelters. (Learn more about these terms here). Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported approximately 4,000 homeless students, but those are only children who attended school. The number of children and youth helped by A Child’s Place and The Relatives is significantly higher than the number determined by the PIT Count. 

Who is helping? 

SHARE Charlotte partners with 37 nonprofits who work with the homeless community. Some work to improve our homeless neighbors’ immediate situation (emergency shelters, food, medical services, showers and laundry). Others work to improve these neighbors’ situation over time through permanent supportive housing, financial support and workforce development. And still others work to provide a more holistic approach by providing outlets like sports and art while working to improve these neighbors’ sense of selves.

The Homeless Services Network is a group of agencies united to serve Charlotte's homeless community and those who are most vulnerable to homelessness. This group meets monthly to discuss issues and solutions surrounding homelessness. (http://solvethepuzzlecharlotte.org/)

Housing First Char-Meck is a local initiative that began in 2015 taking the Housing First approach of moving people directly from the streets and shelters into housing, with minimal eligibility criteria. Housing First Char-Meck's initial goal was to end chronic homelessness in Charlotte by December 2016. Urban Ministry Center's Moore Place opened in 2012 with 120 units and is a single-site Housing First model for men and women. Supportive Housing Communities opened McCreesh Place in 2003 which has 90 units. Both Urban Ministry and Supportive Housing Communities also operate scattered site apartments as permanent supportive housing for formerly chronically homeless neighbors. (http://www.housingfirstcharmeck.org/). 

This latest initiative, which is supported by 27 organizations, says the annual cost to the community is nearly $40,000 for each chronically homeless person, largely for medical expenses such as repeat emergency room visits. The cost of supportive housing for them, UNC Charlotte has estimated, is about $14,000 each per year.  The goal is to create 250 more units for permanent supportive housing. Housing First Char-Meck announced it would need another year to complete its mission as a new proposed single-site development met opposition. They are currently looking for more scattered site apartments. (Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article127349394.html)

Housing? Apartments? What can I do?

As of January, 2017, SHARE Charlotte has 37 nonprofit partners working with Charlotte’s homeless neighbors to provide housing and so much more. These organizations need volunteers, in-kind and financial donations to keep doing their work. 
  • 20 work to provide emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent supportive housing
  • 22 work with children
  • 6 assist military veterans
  • 3 work specifically to prevent homelessness
  • 5 provide service to help with addiction
  • 5 provide food for homeless neighbors and famlies
  • 6 support those in financial crisis
Throughout the rest of the month we’ll take a closer look at some of these organizations and their volunteers, what they’re doing to aid homelessness in Charlotte and what you can do to help them. Homelessness is not an issue we can solve today or tomorrow, but what we can do will make a difference.

Numbers may change as SHARE Charlotte adds nonprofit partners and as missions and programs change for existing partners. 
Photo courtesy David Gelbert; Graphic courtesy Kelly Hough.

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