Each month, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) releases an update on community housing data. This is done via the Housing Data Snapshot. The Housing Data Snapshot provides a regular update for the total number of people experiencing homelessness in the community, as well as the total number of households seeking housing assistance via Coordinated Entry. This month, CSS has added a new metric to the Housing Data Snapshot: the average length of time to access permanent housing.
This blog post provides an overview of the new metric, why it matters, and what it means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
IT TAKES, ON AVERAGE, 241 DAYS TO ACCESS PERMANENT HOUSING
As of January 31, 2020, it takes 241 days (or approximately 8 months) for individuals experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to access permanent housing. This total is calculated by taking the average length of time from the date of homelessness to permanent housing for all individuals on the One Number By-Name List. January 2020 data includes all individuals exiting homelessness to permanent housing between January 1, 2020 and January 31, 2020. The average number of days applies to populations experiencing either sheltered or unsheltered homelessness.
The average length of time to permanent housing will now continue to be updated monthly on the Housing Data Snapshot. To access historical One Number data and trends, click this link.
FOR THE CHRONICALLY HOMELESS, THE HOUSING WAIT IS ABOUT 2 YEARS
The average length of time it takes for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness to exit to permanent housing is 646 days (or approximately 2 years). By definition, an individual experiencing chronic homelessness must have been homeless for at least 12 months (either 12 consecutive months or 4 or more episodes that add up to 12 months) and have a qualifying, disabling condition. This means that individuals meeting this definition spend, on average, an additional 12 months attempting to access permanent housing.
In contrast, it takes an average of only 66 days for veterans experiencing homelessness to access permanent housing. The total population actively experiencing veteran homelessness (246 individuals) includes veterans experiencing chronic homelessness. However, the majority of homeless veterans (78% of 192) are not chronic, contributing to a lower length of time for them to access housing.
The average length of time it takes for veterans and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness to access permanent housing will also continue to be updated monthly.
Understanding the average length of time it takes for households to access permanent housing can help communities identify system-level issues such as lack of housing capacity and the need to align services to match the need.
This metric, combined with information on the number of people entering homelessness (inflow) and the number of people exiting homelessness (outflow), is important to understand whether progress is being made and how to target resources efficiently.
The high average length of time to access permanent housing is similar to the high average length of stay in emergency shelter. During federal fiscal year 2018, the average length of stay in emergency shelter was 105 days. This number has been steadily increasing since the data was first reported in federal fiscal year 2015. With few or no housing options, some individuals get stuck in emergency shelter for extended periods of time. This reality is further supported by the fact that the median length of stay in emergency shelter is much lower (65 days in FY18).
Communities, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, can use data on the average length of time to access permanent housing in order to communicate a sense of urgency about the need for more permanent, affordable housing. Communities can also set goals to reduce the time it takes to access permanent housing, as well as increase the number of permanent housing options available. These metrics offer tangible, specific goals that can both document progress and shine a light on the steps needed to drive systemic improvements.
Mary Ann Priester is the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Administrator for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care (CoC). She provides data quality, security, and privacy oversight for the local HMIS system and technical support and training to 25+ agencies that serve individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Mary Ann also oversees data collection for the Point-in-Time Count.
Courtney LaCaria coordinates 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.