Mecklenburg County Community Support Services first released the “One Number” in 2019 as part of the annual Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability & Homelessness Report. Since that initial release, the One Number has become the “go-to” number for the count of people who are experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The One Number is generated from a By-Name List within the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). It captures the number of people enrolled in Emergency Shelter (ES); Transitional Housing (TH); Street Outreach (SO); Permanent Housing (PH) (if there is no move-in date to housing yet); and Coordinated Entry (CE) programs in HMIS. The One Number includes both total sheltered homelessness and a portion of the individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. In addition, the One Number can be broken down by both household composition and population type; elements include single individuals, families, unaccompanied youth, veterans, and people experiencing chronic homelessness. The Housing Data Snapshot highlights inflow to (Newly identified, Returns from Permanent Housing, Returns for Inactivity) and outflow from (Exit to Permanent Housing, Exit to Inactivity), homelessness. By comparing One Number data over time (including by household composition or by inflow/outflow), the community can identify trends. Once identified, these trends can then inform policy, programming, and funding decisions.
This week’s blog post provides the most recent One Number policy and data updates; the latest analysis; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
An inactivity policy is a critical component of maintaining a By-Name List. It ensures that the By-Name List is a real-time priority list that enables an efficient assessment and referral process so that the matching and housing support process can be completed as quickly as possible. It also ensures that the One Number provides an accurate estimate of the number of people actively experiencing homelessness in Charlotte Mecklenburg.
Without an inactivity policy, the Coordinated Entry System can experience delays in its referral procedures due to the time spent searching for households in the community who they have not been able to reach through multiple attempts, often for many months. Due to this loss of contact, it is hard for the system to determine whether these households are still in need of housing. In some situations, these individuals may have self-resolved their housing crisis or have relocated to another area. If a household is exited from the By-Name List to inactive and makes contact with the homeless system (CE, ES, TH, SO, PH, VA) they become immediately become active again and can be referred to housing resources once they have fully re-engaged with the system which may include re-assessment of their vulnerability.
In 2019, the Coordinated Entry Oversight Committee (CEOC) established a 90-day inactivity policy. This meant that if a person exited a homeless program to a homeless destination, they remained active on our By-Name List and continued to be included in the One Number of persons actively experiencing homelessness for 90 days post-exit. At the time the 90-day standard was consistent with By-Name List inactivity policies across the country.
Through case conferencing and system improvement, we have learned that the 90-day inactive policy causes delays in referrals and diverts resources from being focused on persons who are more recently known to be experiencing homelessness. For this reason and to improve the accuracy of the One Number, in November 2021, the CEOC voted to update the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Inactivity policy and decrease the time period for inactivity from 90 days to 30 days. This means, if a household that appears on the BNL has had no contact with a HMIS contributing agency for 30 days post program exits or has had no contact with the Veteran’s Administration for 30 days and their homeless status is unknown, the household will automatically become inactive and will no longer appear on the BNL. This policy became effective 12/1/21 and the associated impact on the One Number metrics are reflected in this month’s One Number update.
LATEST DATA & TRENDS
As of December 31, 2021, there are 2884 individuals experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. This total includes 1839 single individuals (of which 77 are unaccompanied youth); and 326 families (comprised of 1069 people). Included in the total of 2884 individuals are 181 homeless Veterans, and 485 individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness.
According to the latest One Number data, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, individuals who identify as Black/African American continue to experience homelessness at rates much higher than their proportion of the Mecklenburg County population (76% vs. 31%) while Whites experience homelessness at a rate much lower than their prevalence in the population (4% vs 47%). Asian individuals have a prevalence of <1% in the homeless population but comprise 6% in overall population of Mecklenburg County. Individuals who identify as Hispanic/Latino have a prevalence of 4% in the homeless population but comprise 13% of the Mecklenburg County population. In addition, the average length of time to housing for individuals identifying as Black/African American was 405 days; this compares to 453 days for those who identified as White; and 369 days for those who identified as Multiracial. For those who identified as Hispanic/Latino, the average length of time to housing was 386 days, versus 364 days for those who identify as Non-Hispanic/Non-Latino.
To view the historical data, please click here.
The One Number is the best snapshot available for the number of people experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and is used in discussions of policy and practice improvement and funding allocation. Continuous quality improvement efforts ensure that this snapshot is as accurate as possible and the updated community inactivity policy was enacted to this end.
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.
Mary Ann Priester has worked with vulnerable and underserved populations, particularly individuals experiencing homelessness for 10+ years. As the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Coordinator for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care, she leads HMIS strategic planning efforts and provides data oversight, technical support, and training to community agencies. She is also the Community Data Lead for the Built for Zero initiative to end homelessness and serves on the NCHMIS Governance Committee.
Kimberly Sanders is the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) Management Analyst for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care (CoC). She is responsible for the CoC’s reporting to HUD, and provides reporting support and training to 25+ agencies that serve individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Kimberly is also a member of the Data Advisory Committee and oversees data collection for the Point-in-Time Count.