Data collected from 10 local agencies showed a 54 percent spike in the number of homeless people in Cabarrus County since 2012.
Agencies have just begun to compile the demographic data from the recent annual multi-agency Point-in-Time Count. But more than 280 people were indentified as either staying in emergency or transitional shelters, or sleeping in places not intended for humans.
Last year, 183 homeless people were counted. Of those, 137 were families and 91 were children. In 2009, the number of homeless counted was 122. In neighboring Rowan County, the PIT Count also jumped, more than doubling from 80 in 2011 to 187 in 2013.
The effort, coordinated by the Cooperative Christian Ministry since 2005, takes place on the last Wednesday of January each year. CCM officials and other agency leaders say the results over the past five years demonstrate the challenges of addressing homelessness.
We were expecting to see an increase over the past 12 months, but I dont think any of us (homeless service agencies) were expecting to see a 54 percent increase in identified populations, said Ed Hosack, executive director of the Cooperative Christian Ministry.
Seeking a solution
Part of the local solution strategy will be to call on churches and people of the county to help develop and implement a plan, said Hosack.
We have not yet begun to meet the housing or other needs for people in housing crisis in Cabarrus and southern Rowan counties, said Hosack. CCM will continue to seek viable solutions that help hardworking individuals and families overcome homelessness and achieve stability.
CCM coordinates a group of agencies that provide services to homeless people. It meets meet quarterly to assess services and populations and find gaps in services for the homeless.
The Cabarrus County Homelessness Task Force aids communication and coordination between agencies and churches and spreads awareness about local resources. CCM also plans to evaluate ways to expand shelter and housing options to the areas homeless, especially homeless families.
Hardships throughout the past decade have contributed to the rise in the number of homeless in Cabarrus County, said Hosack.
In 2003, Kannapolis-based textile giant Pillowtex Corp. announced the largest mass layoff in N.C. history. In 2007, the economy began to slip into a recession, and in 2008 the housing market began to collapse. In 2009-10, Philip Morris USA announced it was closing its Concord cigarette plant, and the resulting layoffs affected hundreds.
The cycle of loss that started 10 years ago for some and five years ago for others ends at the loss of housing, said Hosack.
Agency reserves depleted
Because of high unemployment (about 8.5 percent) and underemployment in the county, the reserves of many human service agencies have been depleted, said Hosack.
Cabarrus and Kannapolis have historically had a low inventory of multi-family, lower-cost housing options, said Hosack. Foreclosures and the difficulty getting credit has forced many into the rental market, thereby increasing demand and cost of rental units.
Under definitions established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Point-In-Time Count does not include families who are doubled-up more than one family living in a space built and intended for one family because theyve lost their of housing.
Cabarrus Countys 2012 Community Needs Assessment surveys nearly 1,700 were submitted by residents indicated that 15 percent of households responding had other adults living with them because they couldnt afford to rent or own their own housing.
Our experience is when an unstable household moves in with a stable household, at some point in time you have two unstable households, said Hosack. Very few families can bear the weight of supporting a second family.
Even fewer families can bear the guilt of asking them to leave when they have no other options.
More homeless beds
Since 2008, CCM has added three new Shelter & Housing programs consisting of an additional 102 beds, bringing the number of its beds available to homeless individuals to 142.
Sherry Gordon, community development program administrator for Kannapolis for the past four years, said the county has limited programs for housing assistance.
She said she was shocked by the increase in homelessness here. She predicted it will probably get worse until the job market improves.
I expected to see an increase in the numbers, but not over 50 percent, said Gordon. The city of Kannapolis will continue to seek partnerships in which we can provide assistance to nonprofits that provide public services to residents.
Gordon also encouraged residents to get involved by supporting local organizations such as CCM and Habitat for Humanity.
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