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Homeless numbers in Mecklenburg fall 17% from 2013

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/29/21/12/ic8dG.Em.138.jpeg|210
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Volunteers conducting the Point in Time homeless census search the parking decks of uptown Charlotte for people living on the streets.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/29/21/28/1oWFW7.Em.138.jpeg|223
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Volunteers and a police escort prepare to look for the homeless living under bridges near North Graham St. in Charlotte on Wednesday night. They are taking a survey, the Point in Time homeless census to determine the extent of homelessness in the city.

New programs created in recent years to house Mecklenburg County’s homeless population appear to be having success, based on a 17 percent dip in homelessness reported in the county’s annual Point in Time Count.

The numbers, released Tuesday, show 2,014 homeless people were counted in local shelters, camps and other homeless facilities on Jan. 29. That’s down from 2,418 the previous year, officials said.

Still, some categories of the county’s homeless population rose last year, including veterans (31 percent), unaccompanied youth (50 percent) and the chronically homeless (44 percent).

The unaccompanied youth category includes teens and children under the age of 18 who are homeless and without a parent or guardian. The actual number for such children was nine this year, compared with 6 last year. All nine included in the study were in a shelter program at the time of the count and not on the streets, officials said.

Organizers of the Point in Time Count noted at a press conference Tuesday that some of the increases could be attributed to a more thorough approach to the count this year. This includes not relying on estimates for the unsheltered homeless living in some camps.

Improvement for families

Among the homeless populations that dropped in the past year: Individuals (8 percent); the unsheltered (42 percent) and families with children (down 27 percent).

The count this year found 280 homeless families, representing 41 percent of all homeless people on a single night.

Trends show the number of homeless families remains high compared with past years. Since 2009, there has been a 57 percent increase in homelessness among families, prompting many nonprofits to launch programs to house them more quickly. Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way are working together on a $20 million endowment project that will focus on stabilizing struggling families and veterans with housing and social services.

The count is required by the federal government and is used to show trends in homelessness in the community.

New programs in place

Among the successes shown in the statistics is a 23 percent drop in chronically homeless individuals (from 262 to 203) over the past four years. They are defined as people typically suffering from some type of addiction or disability that keeps them from maintaining a stable home. Most have been homeless for years.

Moore Place and McCreesh Place are two of the programs created to house such individuals and surround them with the services needed to keep them stable.

Another trend revealed in the statistics: The number of unsheltered people in the city has declined by 70 percent since 2009. They are the homeless often found in abandoned buildings and camps in the community.

The numbers were released Tuesday along with an announcement that the city, county and UNC Charlotte Urban Institute are partnering for the annual report on homelessness in Mecklenburg County.

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