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Homelessness shifts toward families

National homeless statistics released this week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mirror what Charlotte-area officials have known for months: more families and children are now living on the street. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of homeless people nationwide stayed steady at about 1 and a half million people. But there was a nine percent increase in the number of homeless people in families. U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says the change is forcing a federal funding to shift toward keeping families in their homes. "If we can reach a family with a relatively small investment of a security deposit, a first month's rent - we can potentially save significant amounts of money around the shelter system and other kinds of institutional care, just as we've shown on the chronically homeless side," said Donovan. The fastest growing segment of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's homeless population is women and children who now make up more than half of the estimated six-thousand homeless people in the area, according to county figures. Robert Munn is a member of the Urban Ministry Center's Homeless Helping Homeless initiative which advocates for more affordable housing in Charlotte. Munn has been homeless off and on for 10 years and currently lives in the Uptown Men's Shelter. "We advocate change of the situation we're in," says Munn. "Breaking down barriers to show people that just because you're homeless and out of a job, you still have self-esteem and dignity about oneself. " Saturday, Homeless Helping Homeless hopes to break some of those stereotypes with a dance at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Charlotte. People with homes and those without are encouraged to come and mingle. The dance is also a fundraiser for Munn and several of his colleagues to attend a national homeless conference and lobbying trip to Washington, DC.