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Rising homeless population in Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln Counties

New data shows an explosion of homeless people in Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties. Between 2005 and 2007, the homeless population in those counties increased 65-percent to more than 600 people. It's a stunning jump, compared to the statewide increase of 10-percent. In Mecklenburg County - where local service groups have spent several years collaborating on a plan to end homelessness - the population declined 10 percent. Angela Barnett runs a day shelter in Gaston County, where she says the economic crisis drove requests for help even higher in 2008. She says the new data is a wake-up call for rural counties like Gaston:. "It's gonna take additional funding, it's gonna take people willing to allow housing and shelters in their neighborhood," says Barnett. "That's a big issue, people don't want homeless people in their area, but they've got to go somewhere. I think the resources and the accessibility of affordable housing are the major issues." The U.S. Department of Housing says Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln counties only have enough emergency and homeless shelter beds for a third about a third of their population. Barnett attributes part of the increase in homelessness to layoffs at textile mills and a change in state policy to put fewer people in mental institutions.