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Local & State

African American and homeless: Want in a county of affluence
90% of shelter residents are black, children
 
Published Wednesday, March 15, 2017 6:54 am
by Herbert L. White

VIA FACEBOOK
A study of homelessness in Mecklenburg County found 92 percent of sheltered individuals are African American.

The face of homelessness in Mecklenburg County usually belongs to an African American child.


More than 90 percent of the county’s homeless are black, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Family Homelessness Snapshot Report released last week. The study found that 2,405 people from 781 sheltered families were homeless in fiscal year 2015 and there was an increase in requests for services.

The survey determined 92 percent of Mecklenburg’s homeless are black, while 4 percent are Latino. Homelessness impacts women and girls disproportionately at 92 percent compared to 8 percent of men and boys.

Children are especially vulnerable, with 1,548 juveniles living in shelters, according to the study. During fiscal 2015, 4,388 CMS students were in shelters, living with other families, in a hotel/motel or unsheltered. The vast majority – 3,882 – were doubled up or living in a hotel/motel.

Eighty-seven percent of displaced students were black.

“Homelessness has lasting, negative impacts on adults and children, including family separation, poor health outcomes and lower social-emotional and academic well-being, said Stacy Lowry, director of Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, which funds the study prepared by the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte.

According to nine local agencies that work with the homeless, contributing factors include lack of employment, poverty, displacement such as job loss or divorce contribute to homelessness.

Among key points in the study:

• Most families were homeless for three to six months.

• Lack of affordable housing, domestic violence and trauma, poverty, intergenerational homelessness and evictions were primary causes of homelessness.

• 29 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg students who were in shelters or transitional housing were considered chronically absent by missing at least 18 days of school. Of those, 21 percent were less likely to be proficient readers.

In the study’s point in time snapshot, 758 people in 256 families were in homeless shelters on a single night in January 2015, an 8 percent drop from the previous year.

Of those homeless, 96 percent were black and 66 percent were female.

The snapshot report describes the impact on families and children as well as outline intervention strategies to prevent it. The study tries to focus challenges and long-term effects of homelessness for the larger community in order to find solutions.

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