CONCORD An annual count of homeless people in Cabarrus County showed an increase of more than 54 percent, a jump that surprised those taking the tally.
There were 283 individuals counted as homeless during the annual Cabarrus County Homeless Point-in-Time Count last month, Cooperative Christian Ministry announced.
This was a 54.6 percent increase from the 183 people counted last year and about a 132 percent increase from the count done in 2009, when 122 people were counted as homeless.
The count is supervised by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was coordinated by Cooperative Christian Ministry. It provides a snapshot of the homeless population here.
Nine local agencies participated in the count, which took place on the night of Jan. 30. The other agencies were Cabarrus Victims Assistance Network; Church of God Children’s Home; Habitat for Humanity; The Opportunity House; American Red Cross; Veterans Services; New Life Men’s Home; and Community Link.
The 283 individuals represented people who were staying in emergency or transitional shelters or sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, Cooperative Christian Ministry said.
“We were expecting to see an increase over the past 12 months, but I don’t think any of us (homeless service agencies) were expecting to see a 54 percent increase in identified populations,” said Ed Hosack, executive director of Cooperative Christian Ministry, in a press release.
Because of HUD’s definitions, the count does not include people who “double up,” or move in with others after they lose their housing.
Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City school systems do include the number of students who are “doubled up,” in their reports, and they counted a total of more than 400 students who are homeless, according to the release.
And even though there is some duplication in the schools’ report and the count, Hosack said Cooperative Christian Ministry believes the overlap is minimal.
Hosack said the group recognizes there is some optimism about the economy in business and housing markets, but the same movement has not necessarily occurred in the job market.
“Cabarrus County is relatively high in unemployment,” Hosack said. “Many families have been affected by the loss of homes and forced into the rental market, and the rental market has seen local average rents go up a little bit or at least closer to fair market rent.”
He said, typically, this area is lower than fair market rent, and with more people in the rental market, it makes things difficult.
Cooperative Christian Ministry also continues to see the need as it serves people in its financial assistance program, and it continues to break records in the number of people served by its food pantries, Hosack said.
Cooperative Christian Ministry’s board of directors and staff also are looking at a way to respond to community needs in a larger way, he said.
Since 2008, the group has added three new shelter and housing programs, which have provided an additional 102 beds for the local homeless population.