Together, we serve as co-chairs for the working group that launched the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS) in April 2021.
Below is the latest progress update and next steps regarding CMHHS, a community effort to develop a comprehensive and transformative multi-year strategy seeking to end and prevent homelessness and to ensure that everyone has access to permanent, affordable housing and the resources necessary to sustain it.
A NEW STRATEGY FOR ENDING & PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS
During the past two decades, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has taken on chronic and veteran homelessness; created a centralized and streamlined intake process for anyone seeking housing assistance; reconstituted the Continuum of Care; and, over the past several years, focused upstream on homelessness prevention. These prior efforts have impacted fractional pieces of the overall issue.
It is critical to center homelessness solutions around housing. Being able to access and sustain housing solves both housing instability and homelessness. The absence of housing creates homelessness; the presence of a home fixes it. Housing is the answer.
Although housing is the obvious answer to the problems in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, making this solution a reality is not easy. Our community has not fully addressed the entire housing continuum, and while parsing the problem makes some solutions possible…some is not good enough. We believe that everyone in our community deserves the opportunity to have a home. For this reason, we cannot settle for business as usual. We need a new strategy – one that results in a home for all.
Since the launch of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy in April, there have been over 250 individuals and 115 organizations that have participated in the strategy planning and development work by serving on one or more of the nine project workstreams. Those nine workstreams have been working since May to identify and prioritize recommendations informed by research and best practices. Four of the workstreams have been devoted to the four main impact areas of the strategy: prevention; temporary housing; permanent affordable housing; and cross-sector supports. Five additional workstreams focused on how the work will be accomplished: Unified Policy Advocacy; Coordinated Funding Alignment; Innovative Data Analytics; Effective Communications; and Ongoing Strategy Support.
Between July and September, we shared draft recommendations for review and to solicit feedback. These feedback opportunities included seven open-invitation community focus groups and feedback sessions attended by more than 200 individuals; 12 focus groups with individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability across several of the emergency and transitional housing sites in our community; and conversations with more than 20 local public and private sector organizations and groups interested in learning more about the effort. These efforts have enabled us to engage more than 300 additional individuals during the drafting process and integrate their feedback directly into the strategy.
We are excited to share that our community has a new, comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem – from housing instability to homelessness – guided by research, building on the existing work, best practices from other cities and shaped by community input. In reviewing the recommendations from all nine workstreams, we identified four key themes: addressing historical and structural inequities; increasing access to and availability of shelter, housing, prevention resources and supportive services; coordinating systems so that the people who need resources can easily navigate them; and changing the system to ensure the sustainability of its impacts.
We believe it is important to leave no stone unturned. We also recognize that before putting any plans into action, it is critical to continue listening to all ideas. A comprehensive strategy must ultimately be owned by the entire community. To that end, CMHHS will release the strategy in two parts:
- Part 1 contains the Strategic Framework, which includes the high-level overview of the four-value framework with recommendations from each workstream. Part 1 is not a detailed funding request; it is not a set of discrete, actionable initiatives. We plan to release Part 1 in December.
- Part 2 contains the Implementation Plan, which will include action steps and related funding requests for the recommendations. Part 2 will be released at a later date and will be shaped by response to the framework.
Releasing the framework first enables CMHHS to incorporate additional feedback from stakeholders in the public and private sectors, including our elected officials; funders; individuals impacted by the recommendations, themselves; as well as the larger community, into the implementation plan.
Finally, because housing instability and homelessness are growing. we recognize that the community cannot simply wait for a plan to take action. Public and private funders are considering the next year’s cycle of grants. Therefore, Part 1 will (despite not being a detailed funding request) highlight near-term funding opportunities that can be considered time-sensitive, validated investments to ensure that immediate actions can be taken without disrupting implementation planning for work that will require additional time and input.
Since this effort started last spring, input has come from providers who serve on the front lines: those who have lived experience with housing instability or homelessness; representatives from the county, city, and school system; corporate and business sectors; healthcare, workforce development, childcare, transportation, and other complementary sectors; non-profits; funding and faith communities; grassroots organizations; and housing developers, landlords, and other real estate-related entities.
We remain committed to ensuring that this community effort stays true to our core commitments: taking a transformational approach to address need at the systemic and structural levels and elevating the voices and priorities of individuals with lived experience to guide our decision-making process. And, we believe these commitments must anchor our final strategy.
It is October, but our work is not yet done. We are in the final stages of delivering a comprehensive, community-driven strategy. But it’s important to remember that a strategy is not an outcome. Instead, it is a roadmap that outlines our path forward. As we prepare to release Parts 1 (Framework) and 2 (Implementation Plan) of the strategy, we will continue to engage the community about the framework and incorporate this feedback into the implementation plan. To schedule a presentation for your group or organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This last phase of the work, implementation planning, will determine how we will accomplish the journey laid out in Part 1. We know where we want to go, but now we must lay out the path. This is the only way our community will arrive at our desired destination: a home for all.
Cathy Bessant, Vice Chair of Global Strategy at Bank of America, and Eugene A. Woods, President and CEO of Atrium Health, serve as co-chairs for the working group of the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy.