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Strategy released for reducing homelessness in Mecklenburg County

The homeless camp at 12th and College back in August 2020. A survey of the camp on Jan. 15 found 84 people living there.
David Boraks
Tents at the corner of 12th and College Street in August 2020. A survey of the camp on Jan. 15 found 84 people living there.

Mecklenburg County and a coalition of businesses and nonprofits have released the first draft of a plan focused on preventing and reducing homelessness in the Charlotte area.

The draft — billed as a "strategicframework" — contains broad goals and objectives that will guide the coalition as it develops more specific policy recommendations and funding requests for the "2025 Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy."

The document released Wednesday outlines four main priorities:

  • Address historical and structural inequities.
  • Expand shelter space and affordable housing
  • Encourage more coordination between agencies
  • Create long-term, sustainable changes to the county's homeless support system

The67-page document also includes some more specific recommendations, such as turning hotels and motels into low-income housing, expanding many social programs, finding ways to encourage landlords to accept housing vouchers, and creating a new organization or branch of an existing organization to support other plans that come out of the working group.

This is not the first time Mecklenburg County has set out to create a plan to address homelessness. However, Stacy Lowry, director of the county's Community Support Services, says previous plans tended to focus only on certain types of homelessness, such as chronic homelessness or veteran homelessness.

This plan, Lowry said, intends to look at the system as a whole.

"It's full continuum, meaning preventing homelessness for people who are housing unstable to people who are about to become homeless, and then all the way to people who are homeless," Lowry said. "What we're aiming for is a community where homelessness is rare, brief, and one time, and that every person has access to permanent, affordable housing, the resources to sustain it."

The plan is being developed with input from nonprofits, local companies such as Bank of America and Atrium Health, government agencies and focus groups composed of people who were or are experiencing homelessness.

Lowry said the county will now seek feedback, then work on developing specific policy recommendations and funding requests in the coming weeks. County leaders hope to the full plan in place by the end of 2026.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal