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Mecklenburg is taking a closer look at homeless youth in this year’s 'Point in Time' count


County staff will fan out across Mecklenburg County on Wednesday to get a sense of how many residents are experiencing homelessness.

Every year, the county conducts a survey to get a sense of how many people are living on the streets, in the woods or in shelters and transitional housing.

It’s called the Point In Time count, and that number is sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how much federal funding it sends to communities.

Mecklenburg County’s housing and homelessness research coordinator, Courtney LaCaria, says the number of people experiencing homelessness grew by a little more than 1,000 between August 2019 and February 2021, when it hit 3,456. Much of that growth, LaCaria said, was fueled by the pandemic.

“You think about what was happening already before so you’ve got costs of housing going up, you’ve got households can’t afford that gap between the housing costs and households can’t afford getting bigger,” LaCaria said. “And then you throw a pandemic on top of that, and that makes everything a lot worse.”

This year, there will be an additional focus on counting the number of people between 18 and 25, said Trish Hobson, executive director of The Relatives, a resource center for children and youth.

“I think it’s very hard for people to wrap their heads around that there are parents out there who literally kick their kids out of the house when they’re 18 years old, and they don’t have a plan,” Hobson said.

Hobson says getting homeless youth into housing can help curb the number of homeless adults, but to do that, the county and resource agencies need more information about how these young people are getting by.

Mecklenburg County residents seeking help can fill out this form to be connected to resources or call the county’s resource center at 704-284-9665.

Children and youth can call The Relatives crisis hotline at 704-377-0602.

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Catherine Welch is Assistant News Director at WFAE. She has led newsrooms at KUNC in Greely, CO, Rhode Island Public Radio in Providence, RI and WHQR in Wilmington, NC.