When it comes to homelessness in Charlotte and the surrounding area, the data tells a somewhat encouraging story.
According to the most recent Point in Time (PIT) Count available for Mecklenburg County, N.C., Charlotte is the seat of Mecklenburg County, 1,476 people were experiencing homelessness in the county on a single night in January 2017. That number represents a 12 percent decrease from the 2016 PIT and a 26 percent decrease from the 2010 PIT.
The numbers are even more encouraging in light of the fact that Mecklenburg County’s population has grown significantly over the same timeframe, from 919,628 residents in 2010 to 1,077,874 residents in 2017. As a result, Mecklenburg’s per capita homelessness rate (homeless persons per 1,000) decreased from 2.17 in 2010 to 1.37 in 2017.
However, as an article on the University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s website notes, “[b]ecause it is a snapshot, the [PIT] is an undercount, because it does not include those who are homeless at different points throughout the year. It also does not include people who may be experiencing housing instability, such as living doubled-up with family and friends or in hotels and motels.”
Furthermore, a count of 1,476 people is still too high. We have to work harder and smarter to end this issue in Charlotte and across the country.
At Shelters to Shutters (S2S), we believe a smarter, more effective approach involves the private sector taking on a more prominent role in this issue. Private businesses are innovative, nimble and efficient, and bringing these qualities to bear on the homelessness issue can have a powerful effect. Private companies can help by hiring ready-to-work homeless individuals – of which there are thousands upon thousands – and also by helping them find places to live.
A great example of this is playing out here in Charlotte and in other cities across the country where S2S is partnering with apartment management companies to place people experiencing homelessness in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work. Please read and watch Odessa’s story – a Charlotte resident – on just how S2S has helped her find self-sufficiency and herself again.
In the end, the fight to eradicate homelessness in Charlotte and across the country will be a massive endeavor. No single entity or sector can solve this problem, but we cannot rely on the government alone to address this challenge.
It’s time for the private sector to take an example from the multifamily industry and apply its considerable resources and innovation to help end this problem.