A count of chronically homeless people in Charlotte this year turned up 516 people in need of help. For three days in January, a couple hundred volunteers fanned out to search streets, parks, shelters, hospitals, jails and homeless camps. Among the people they found was Al Gorman, living in a tent in Huntersville. Since then, the Urban Ministry Center has helped him find a place to live.
"They were great facilitators; they helped me get an ID, use their mailing address and everything else…put me in for social security online," he says.
The number of chronically homeless has dropped by about three hundred since 2010, based on a smaller scale count that year. The Urban Ministry Center’s Liz Clasen-Kelly says that’s due to efforts like Moore Place, which houses homeless people right away and then provides them with the help they need. This time around, she says volunteers gathered more information, which will better identify what kinds of help people need.
"We now have a tool to prioritize to ensure those resources go to the most vulnerable, so we’re able to prioritize the chronically homeless, particularly the most vulnerable chronically homeless folks," Clasen-Kelly explains.
According to the January count, more than 85 percent of chronically homeless people in Charlotte have mental health problems; about 70 percent have substance abuse problems.
The count is part of the Housing First initiative, a partnership of government, business, and non-profit organizations to end chronic homelessness in the area by the end of next year.