FIRST TIME HOMELESSNESS MEASURE LINKS HOUSING INSTABILITY TO HOMELESSNESS
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Dashboard presents information on homelessness, housing instability and affordable housing. This decision was intentional to highlight the link that exists between homelessness and housing instability and the need to consider affordable housing solutions across this continuum.
The System Performance Measure that looks at first time homelessness provides a good example of this link. System Performance Measures are a set of progress measures that help our community know whether we are making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring.
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, most people entering the homeless services system experience homelessness for the first time. In FY16, there were 3,762 people who entered for the first time compared to 1,614 people who were returning from a previous cycle of homelessness. While the percentage of people who experience homelessness for the first time decreased by 9% from FY15 to FY16, the fact remains that most people who enter the homeless services system do so for the first time.
It is important for the community to take a deeper dive and look at the characteristics of the population entering shelters and transitional housing for the first time. In 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported a rise in people experiencing first-time homelessness, noting that the traditional image of a person experiencing homelessness has changed.
By looking at the characteristics and needs of the population experiencing first time homelessness, it can help the system improve its performance as well as help families and individuals get the right match of services.
Do all people experiencing homelessness for the first time need the most intensive and costly intervention? What role can other mainstream systems, including criminal justice, mental health, and childcare play to help identify this population who is at-risk of homelessness to help prevent the homeless episode from occurring. Answers to these questions can have a positive impact on reducing housing instability and homelessness.
Courtney Morton coordinates community posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.