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$1 million sought to expand apartments for chronically homeless

The Charlotte City Council will decide Monday night whether to provide $1 million to the Urban Ministry Center to expand an apartment project for chronically homeless people that has earned national accolades.

If the money is approved, 35 additional units would be built at Moore Place, north of uptown, to house a segment of the homeless population that is most at-risk of dying on the streets. Ten of the new beds would be dedicated to chronically homeless veterans.

The project will expand Moore Place from 85 to 120 units and will cost $2.2 million, Urban Ministry officials said. An additional $1.8 million is being raised by the ministry for a Sustainability Fund to cover operations and social services.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for late spring on land next to the current Moore Place complex off North Graham Street. The first of the 35 new tenants would move in next fall, officials said.

The $1 million would come from the Housing Trust Fund, a pot of money approved by voters in 2001 to provide financing for affordable housing.

City Council members have been at odds over use of the money in the past year, with some seeking to help the homeless and others suggesting the money go to help families who have low-paying jobs and can’t maintain stable housing.

This would mark the second time the City Council has contributed trust-fund dollars to Moore Place, with the first being $500,000 to help with construction. The site became fully operational last year and now is full.

The Urban Ministry Center has already received funding commitments for the expansion from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Myers Park Presbyterian Church and Hendrick Automotive, officials said.

Caroline Chambre, director of the Urban Ministry’s HousingWorks program, says there about 800 chronically homeless adults in the city who could qualify for apartments at Moore Place.

This includes many who have serious medical conditions that make them vulnerable to dying on the streets. At least 11 homeless individuals have died in the past year in the Charlotte area, Urban Ministry officials said.

Plans to expand the apartment community come at a time when the city’s nonprofits appear to be having an impact on reducing some segments of the homeless population, specifically the chronically homeless and single adults without children.

On any given night, around 2,400 people in the community are homeless, with the fastest-growing segment being parents with children. Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way are at work on a project to address family homelessness, aided by $10 million to be given by the city over the next five years.

Even with only 85 units, Moore Place is considered is a big success, due to the hundreds of thousands in tax dollars it has saved the community. That was accomplished by providing the social services needed to keep the chronically homeless stable and out of jails, emergency rooms and hospital beds, officials said.

Urban Ministry officials say the average daily cost for an individual housed at Moore Place is $29.50, compared to a night in jail, which costs taxpayers $110, or a visit to the emergency room with a price tag of $1,029.

Urban Ministry officials estimate Moore Place saved the community $1.8 million in its first year, based on 420 fewer days in jail for chronically homeless individuals, 449 fewer emergency rooms visits and 377 fewer days spent in hospitals.

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