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Under Bridges And In Camps, County Counts Homeless Residents

homeless camp under bridge
Jesse Steinmetz
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WFAE
Mecklenburg County staff fanned out across the city -- and looked under bridges -- to count Charlotte's homeless.

Mecklenburg County staff and homeless advocates fanned out across the city Thursday morning to conduct Charlotte’s annual homeless point-in-time count. They looked for homeless residents under bridges and at camps in the woods.  

homeless2_0.JPG
Credit Jesse Steinmetz / WFAE
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WFAE
Workers had to wake before dawn to begin counting homeless in Charlotte.

A man named Justin is living in a tent near uptown. He recently took a Greyhound bus to Charlotte from Alabama.

"I had no jobs, no housing, no money, no nothing lined up," he said. 

One unintended benefit of the head count was the unexpected wake-up call.

"I am starting a new job today, which is why I’m actually glad y’all woke me up," Justin said. 

The point-in-time count is a community survey of Charlotte’s homeless population. The goal is to gather data that will inform local policy, programming and funding decisions.

Courtney LaCaria is the Housing and Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. She said the number of people using shelters is rising. 

"So we’ve seen an average inflow over the last several months of around 200 people, which underscores for us the need for more affordable housing in our community, especially for people who make the least,” LaCaria said.

The count is also required in order to receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The count officially began Monday and continues through Sunday at homeless shelters and other facilities. People living outdoors were counted Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

The number of Charlotte’s homeless is growing. Last year's count found about 2,100 homeless residents, up from about 1,670 in 2018 and nearly 1,500 in 2017. Numbers for 2020 will be released later this year.

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