© 2022 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mecklenburg County turns to United Way to help fight homelessness

homeless-homelessness.jpeg
WFAE
An estimated 3,380 people are now experiencing homelessness in Mecklenburg County.

The number of people facing homelessness in Mecklenburg County is up two-thirds from what it was two years ago. An estimated 3,380 people are now experiencing homelessness in the county. Officials are hoping a partnership with United Way of Central Carolinas will provide a pathway forward.

County Manager Dena Diorio says local officials cannot eliminate homelessness on their own. The effort will require support from the business community—something Diorio hopes to attract through a $778,000 contract with United Way.

“The intention is to do broad fundraising across the county to help support the implementation of the plan. And that cannot be done if the county's the lead because private donors are not going to give money to the county. So we needed to find a nonprofit that would be able to accept donations for this work,” Diorio said during Wednesday evening’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

United Way will act as a coordinator for the county by working to align efforts across stakeholders, including government, the faith community and advocacy groups. Board of County Commissioners Chairman George Dunlap said the initiative should expand the impact beyond what the county could achieve on its own.

“The point was this was a community-driven initiative and not just the county. And so there are a lot of stakeholders, the business community, a lot of people are invested,” Dunlap said. “What we were trying to do was put it in the hands of an organization that we felt comfortable with that could deliver on getting all of that stuff together, organize, strategize, because the county doesn't necessarily do that kind of stuff.”

The county’s ambitious objective to end homelessness comes amid a growing shortage of affordable housing in Charlotte. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the Charlotte metropolitan area is short 45,130 units for extremely low-income renters. The gap has grown an estimated 3,207 units since last year.

Activists with the Housing Justice Coalition point to development trends that favor high-end rentals as one factor forcing people out of their homes. Much of the displacement has impacted residents of Charlotte’s historically African American neighborhoods, said Ismaail Qaiyim, the Housing Justice Coalition’s policy and political education committee co-chair.

“We've seen that Charlotte is an unaffordable city with rents and property taxes that are ever-increasing and outpacing wages for the majority of citizens,” Qaiyim said. “A lot of the housing, a lot of the decision making around housing that directly impacts residents in Mecklenburg County is done by local government. And local government actors have significant power to enact policies and utilize decision making toward the realization of housing as a human right.”

The coalition has publicly released a resolution outlining the actions it would like to see local government take to promote tenants’ rights and reduce the negative impacts of gentrification.

Sign up for EQUALibrium

Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte.