Mecklenburg County Community Support Services releases today, October 14, a new report: Launch Upstream: Homelessness Prevention in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The first community report on prevention assistance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the report provides a comprehensive look at the homelessness prevention continuum as an important catalyst within the Housing & Homelessness Ecosystem.
This blog post will provide an overview of what is included in the report, why it matters and how Charlotte-Mecklenburg can use the report to address housing instability and homelessness.
A NEW PREVENTION CONTINUUM
The report offers a community definition for prevention as part of a continuum and places it within the larger context of the community’s housing and homelessness ecosystem. In addition, the report applies this framework to prevention assistance currently provided in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Prevention is defined as a category of housing assistance targeting households facing near-term housing instability but who have not yet lost their housing. The continuum of prevention includes three tiers:
- Community-wide interventions aimed at changing systems and structures that perpetuate housing instability;
- Cross-sector collaboration and coordination to reduce the prevalence of homelessness; and
- Targeted interventions including financial and legal assistance to help households maintain their housing.
EVOLUTION & IMPACT OF PREVENTION
Communities across the United States are prioritizing prevention assistance to help individuals and families maintain their current housing, thereby reducing homelessness. In FY20, the Mecklenburg County budget increased funding for prevention assistance by more than $1.8M. The benefits of prevention assistance to residents and the community are significant. Prevention assistance is cost-effective when compared to other housing interventions. Through prevention, households avoid both the trauma of homelessness and the addition of barriers to securing new housing.
This report describes the impact and evolution of prevention assistance, and highlights best practice examples from communities across the United States.
Homelessness – or the loss – of housing can happen to anyone. These reasons can include a loss of a job, natural disaster or because a person is fleeing domestic violence.
However, there are households who are at a higher risk. Over 78,000 households in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are cost-burdened and teeter every day on the edge of homelessness and housing. Once homeless, it is hard for households to escape.
Communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg spend millions to fund shelters to temporarily support homeless households until they find housing; and re-housing adds additional costs for the household and the community.
While the loss of housing cannot always be prevented, communities can help prevent homelessness for the households who may be most likely to experience it. To effectively launch upstream, housing instability must be addressed as a system, matching prevention resources to needs along the entire prevention continuum.
Despite an influx of new funding, and the recognized potential for broad community impacts, prevention remains underutilized as a system tool. The report offers six recommendations for consideration to optimize the prevention assistance system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Courtney Morton 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.