Local & State
|Initiative goal: Address housing insecurity in Mecklenburg County|
|Consortium tasked with developing long-term plan|
|Published Thursday, April 22, 2021 7:30 am|
|PHOTO | UNSPLASH|
|A consortium of public, private and nonprofit agencies and individuals are tasked with creating long-term strategies to alleviate housing insecurity in Mecklenburg County.|
A new initiative is focused on long-term housing stability in Mecklenburg County.
A consortium of public, private and non-profit leaders announced the formation of the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy an effort to build a strategic plan to address homelessness. The group has an Oct. 1 deadline to submit and implement a five-year plan to address current and prevent future homelessness.
The project is led by Bank of America executive Cathy Bessant and Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health.
Nearly 50 government, nonprofit and corporate leaders are participating, along with people who have been homeless and housing security advocates.
“It’s fundamental to your health to have a roof over your head and to know where your next meal will come from,” Woods said. “That’s why we are committed to a sustainable solution that lifts up those who are dealing with homelessness and precarious housing instability.”
The strategic plan will detail aligned strategies, goals and funding to effect short-term solutions for the homeless as well as long-term answers such as improved access to job training, health care and education.
“Addressing homelessness and housing from a systems level assures that we can create sustainable housing solutions that are inclusive of all citizens in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg County,” said Deronda Metz, director of Social Services for The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte.
According to the 2020 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Instability & Homelessness report, the inventory of permanent and affordable housing is decreasing, while need increases.
There was a 23,060-unit gap of rental units for low-income households who are at or below 30% of Area Median Income in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. More than three-quarters of those households (77%) are renting at a higher cost than they can reasonably afford. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem as evictions skyrocketed with the loss of jobs and income.
“This is a complex issue that requires multifaceted solutions,” Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones said. “By bringing together this all-inclusive assortment of homelessness specialists, including those who have lived it, we will attack this problem like never before and work toward achievable, sustainable housing options for all who need it.”
On any single night in Mecklenburg County, there are nearly 3,500 homelessness people, including those in shelters or unsheltered sites while housing instability has also risen. Because of COVID-related financial hits to the national economy, American renters owed $70 billion in combined back rent, utilities, and late fees as of January.
In response, federal and state moratoriums on eviction have been extended with limited success as property owners, faced with the prospect of losing income, continue to remove renters.
“Homelessness – or, more simply the circumstance in which someone does not have a roof above their head – is deeply rooted in systems and structures that benefit some, but not all,” said Mecklenburg County commissioners chairman George Dunlap. “Once a person becomes homeless, it is their homelessness itself that causes further trauma, and ultimately becomes the biggest barrier to their getting back into housing. With the pandemic, the need for a stable, permanent place to call ‘home’ has never been more urgent.”
A consortium of representatives from the public and nonprofit sectors, including Mecklenburg County, City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care and Charlotte Center City Partners, are funding the initiative.
“Homelessness is a human and community tragedy, and we are all impacted by it,” Bessant said. “Our focus will be on developing an approach that addresses the full continuum of need, and on helping to drive meaningful and lasting change. With everyone at the table, including the public, non-profit, and private sectors, we plan to support existing work and create innovative, new approaches.”
The initiative’s goals include:
• Strengthening prevention assets
• Optimization of temporary housing and shelters
• Growing permanent affordable housing and
• Coordination of cross-sector support.
"Our community's approach to homelessness has shifted since we last had a plan to address it,” said Lori Thomas, PhD, director of research and faculty engagement at UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and executive director of the school’s Institute for Social Capital. “With the renewed urgency from the impact of the pandemic, we have a chance to put some lessons learned from our past work and research into practice, including crucially, that we can't solve homelessness without addressing the systemic factors like housing affordability and racism that create and sustain it."
Said Woods: “As we have seen especially throughout the pandemic, Charlotte has a track record of government, businesses and health systems coming together to address our most pressing health and social issues. And I am optimistic that we can work collectively to meet this challenge as well.”
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