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Counting The Homeless
The Homeless Services Network has completed its count of homeless in Mecklenburg County.

The Homeless Services Network has recently completed its count of homeless in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Using parameters outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the network counted 1,976 unduplicated homeless individuals in Mecklenburg County.

The 2007 "Point In Time" count was held on January 24. The conservative count of 1,976 does not count the homeless who were hospitalized, institutionalized, facing eviction within a week, facing imminent discharge from prisons and jails, fleeing domestic violence relationships or lacking other resources, such as living in substandard, condemned housing. When these other individuals are included in a truer community count, the network counts 3,450 unduplicated individuals. Both of these counts involve the actual counting of individuals in shelters, transitional housing and in places not meant for human habitation (on streets, abandoned buildings, etc.).

Service providers in the Homeless Services Network emphasize that the community count of 3,450 understates the actual numbers - the numbers of less visible homeless can only be estimated. This list includes those doubled and tripled up with family and friends, those sleeping in out of the way areas, and those living week by week in motels. The lack of capacity within the current sheltering system forces homeless individuals and families to use more hidden alternatives to survive.

"Despite the provision of excellent services for the homeless, the growth of this population combined with the lack of affordable housing continues to pose significant challenges to our community," says Peter Safir, Chairman of the Homeless Services Network.

A part of the challenge in acquiring a realistic count has been the constant change in parameters from year to year. The Homeless Services Network's goal is to use the same baseline in future Point-In-Time counts.

The last official Point-In-Time count was held on July 26, 2006, counting 3,801 homeless individuals. But the 2006 count included categories not included in this year's count, as directed by HUD. For this reason, the Point-In-Time count reported to HUD for January 24 was 1,976 unduplicated homeless individuals. The community count includes the additional categories not allowed by the HUD count accounting for the 3,450 total.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools also estimates 1905 homeless students as of January 31, identified through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act. The McKinney-Vento definition includes, doubled up housing, hotels and motels, cars, parks, children awaiting foster care placement.

Examples of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community working together to find solutions to homeless isuses can be found in the recently released 10-year plan for homeless support, or at the Housing Charlotte 2007 conference scheduled for February 22 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

More information on Mecklenburg County Community Support Services and Homeless Support Services can be found by clicking here.

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