The use of homeless shelters is rising much faster in Mecklenburg County than it is nationally. UNC Charlotte released a report Monday showing that stark contrast, but county officials say the increase may not be a bad thing.
From 2009 to 2013, the number of sheltered homeless people in Mecklenburg County increased 55 percent, compared with a decrease of 9 percent nationally. The numbers include people in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs.
The report does not give a clear reason for the increase. And other reports have shown the county’s chronically homeless population is on the decline. So this could be about more people getting off the street and into help, says Stacy Lowry, Mecklenburg County director of community support services.
“It could be that they are aware of services and also being referred and accessing those services,” she says. “It’s just hard to tell from this one report.”
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That’s partly because Lowry says the data is better now than it was a few years ago. Additional reasons for the increase could be the county’s growing population and the state’s drawn-out economic recovery.
One thing Lowry says is clear: Finding an affordable home can be a struggle in Mecklenburg County. A previous report showed for every housing voucher that comes open, roughly 160 people say they need it.
WFAE is a member of the Charlotte News Alliance.