Shelters return homeless to Charlotte streets for summer
Hundreds of homeless men will return to sleeping on Charlotte's streets tomorrow, when two local shelters close for the summer. Advocates say the problem will be bigger this year, because the recession has left more people homeless. In the last year, Mecklenburg County's homeless population jumped twenty percent to a current count of more than 6,000 people. The Emergency Winter Shelter and Uptown Men's Shelter overflow program provide about 250 beds for homeless men during the winter. Liz Clasen-Kelly of the Urban Ministry Center says most of those men will spend the summer sleeping on the street, or in jail. "When folks go to spend a night on the street they are essentially committing the crime of trespassing," says Clasen-Kelly. "On any given night, 20 percent of the folks in our jail are homeless." Clasen-Kelly says Mecklenburg County has about 600 shelter beds for the homeless. But that number has remained steady, while the region's homeless population has reached an all-time high. Two years ago, city and county officials adopted a plan to create shelter space for another 250 people. Advocates say little progress has been made on that goal. Local church and community groups are trying to fill the need with collaborations like Hall House, where 75 families are being housed until June.