Jan 25, 2023 - News

Mecklenburg County to capture new data on homeless population

Tent City week of Friday, February 20, 2021

Photo: Travis Dove for Axios Charlotte

Mecklenburg County staff and volunteers will work through the night tomorrow, Jan. 26, to gather data about the state of those experiencing homelessness in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.

State of play: The Point-in-Time count occurs annually in January. But because of the pandemic, this is the first time in three years volunteers will be involved in a boots-on-the-ground capacity.

  • More than 150 volunteers will work with local police officers in Charlotte and in neighboring towns to conduct surveys on an app to ask people who are unsheltered what services they have and have not accessed, and what services they need.
  • It’s the first time the count has been expanded to include the six towns in Mecklenburg County.

Yes, but: It’s more than a night of determining demographics and data of those in shelters, encampments and on the streets. Volunteers will also provide winter weather assistance items like coats, hats and gloves. The low Thursday is 36 degrees and 29 degrees on Friday.

  • Unsheltered people will also be connected to resources.

Why it matters: The Point-in-Time count, which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helps determine how much federal funding the county receives for housing-related programs. It also informs local strategic planning to address homelessness.

  • Mecklenburg County is in the midst of a sweeping effort to reduce homelessness, which involves the city, county, nonprofits and major employers.

By the numbers: 3,032 people are experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County as of Nov. 30, but that number doesn’t reflect the whole issue, Erin Nixon, Mecklenburg County senior social services manager-continuum of care, tells Axios.

The big picture: The homeless services system serves as a catch-all for the failures of other systems, Nixon tells Axios.

  • Historical policies, structural racism, the criminal justice system, and disparities in education and income perpetuate the issue of homelessness, Nixon says.
  • The market is another factor. As rent increases, more and more people cannot afford to pay it.
  • People aren’t getting evicted and finding their way into shelters the next day. But people who have a history of homelessness who then get evicted are more likely to show up at a shelter, Nixon says.

Those who receive vouchers to help pay for housing have trouble finding a home, and some are unable to use them.

  • “We just don’t have units or landlords that are willing to accept the subsidies or the payments,” Nixon says.

Of note: The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved allocating $99 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for 75 local projects last week.

  • The county dedicated $39.3 million for affordable housing and to address homelessness, and $34.2 million was allocated for behavioral health and health equity.

What’s next: “We’re trying to do more on looking at prevention and why people are coming into homelessness and what are some things we can do more upstream to prevent them to prevent people from falling into homelessness,” Nixon says.

Roof Above maintains a Wish List, and items go to those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

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