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Mecklenburg County counts homeless as advocates lobby Congress

Thursday night Mecklenburg County did its annual summer count of the homeless population. Shelters, hospitals and jails sent reports that will capture a snapshot of how the homeless population is growing and changing. Police officers visited camps and bridges to estimate the number of homeless people sleeping outside. As of January, the county estimated 6,600 people were homeless, which a growing number of them women and children. Today an unusual group of lobbyists took their homeless concerns to Charlotte's Congressional delegation in Washington. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: It's probably not everyday Congresswoman Sue Myrick or Senator Kay Hagan gets a visit from a group people who spend their nights sleeping on the street or in a homeless shelter. Robert Munn is currently staying at Charlotte's Uptown Shelter. He's a member of the Urban Ministry's Homeless Helping Homeless initiative. They often visit city and county officials. But today Munn and seven others from the group took their concerns to Washington: "When you start on the local level, they refer you to the state and the state refer you to the federal level," says Munn. Members of Homeless Helping Homeless want Charlotte's Congressional delegation to push for federal funding that would help better support people transitioning off the street, rather than primarily those in homeless shelters. Robert Gaffney says it's a shift away from simply asking for more shelter space. "What we're trying to do is dealing first of all with prevention," says Gaffney. "And then rapid re-housing - let's get these people back into a housing situation where they can thrive." Like Munn, Gaffney is also homeless, but the number of people in need of housing in Charlotte has grown so dramatically that he's been unable to secure a bed in a shelter. He's currently sleeping on the street.