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Homelessness declines in N.C.
Emphasis on housing drives decrease
 
Published Sunday, November 24, 2013 8:15 pm
by Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service

WINSTON-SALEM – This Thanksgiving, an increasing number of North Carolina families and individuals will celebrate the holiday at their own kitchen table instead of on the street.

Statewide homeless rates are declining - down 11 percent in the last year - thanks in part to a change in how agencies assist the homeless population. Placing individuals in housing used to be one of the last things on the to do list of strategies - but that's changing, explains Emily Carmody, project specialist with the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Once people have a stable place to live, they really are able to address a lot of the different issues,” she stresses. “Finding a job, going to school, getting into treatment or recovery - all of that's a lot easier when you have a place to go home to at night.”

Carmody adds that some communities have had even larger reductions in homelessness. In Winston-Salem, it's down 29 percent, and Wilmington has seen a 15 percent decline.

Much of the funding comes from the federal HUD program. State money for research and training in North Carolina has been eliminated in the last two budget cycles. Tim West, program supervisor of the Community and Business Development Department for the City of Winston-Salem, says his community's success is largely driven by a plan implemented by the United Way of Forsyth County that started in 2007.

“The focus on housing folks as quickly as possible once they become homeless is really what made us successful,” he explains. “And we really need to give a lot of credit to our 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.”

With fewer dollars, Carmody says cities have learned to be strategic with their spending. 

“I think right now, what we're seeing is kind of the fruits of that labor,” she says, “of that concentrating on getting some of the individuals who have been in our systems for a long time and have the highest needs into housing. And now, we're seeing how that movement has helped our system.”

A small number of North Carolina communities did see increases in homelessness between 2012 and 2013, including Asheville and Durham.

 

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