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City/County consider shake up in approach to homelessness

City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials say they haven't made enough progress in addressing homelessness, so they're developing a new plan to hold themselves accountable. Almost three years ago, the city and county - like hundreds of other communities around the country - adopted an official "Ten-Year Implementation Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness." But since then, the number of homeless in Charlotte has risen to more than 6,000 people. Mayor Anthony Foxx says efforts to implement the plan have lacked coordination and accountability. "(The plan) calls for a lot of steps, many of which have not happened," said Foxx in a city council meeting on Monday. A crucial step in the plan is to build 2,500 housing units that have supportive services such as job counseling and mental health workers on-site. However, the city and county have made no progress in building such housing. Instead, the city and Charlotte Housing Authority have focused mainly on funding affordable housing construction, while the county spends its money expanding services at homeless shelters and food pantries. Nobody has been responsible for making sure the city and county are working together on homelessness, and nonprofit agencies have expressed frustration at a lack of leadership. Now the city's Housing and Neighborhood development director Pat Mumford has appointed a full-time staff person to do just that. "We need some dedicated staff and that's one thing that we've been lacking over the past two and a half years," Mumford told city councilmembers Mumford is also proposing the city and county create a new 12-member board of volunteers and appointees to make sure the 10-year plan is implemented. Urban Ministry Center executive Director Dale Mullennix welcomes the proposal. "I think the most important thing about today's meeting was that the meeting happened and that we have a mayor who is saying 'We're gonna make this a priority and we're gonna do something about it,'" says Mullennix. Mumford and Mayor Foxx hope to have the new homeless plan oversight board in place by July. Members of the city council say they're open to the idea. County commissioners will consider it this week, as well.