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” for the count of people who are experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The One Number can be found on the Housing Data Snapshot, a hub for the latest information related to housing and homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Generated from a By-Name List within the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), the One Number captures the number of people enrolled in Emergency Shelter; Transitional Housing; Street Outreach; Permanent Housing (those enrolled but not yet housed); and Coordinated Entry projects in HMIS.
The One Number includes both 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 One Number can also be analyzed by inflow to, and outflow from, homelessness. By comparing One Number data over time (including by household composition, population or by inflow/outflow), the community can identify trends. Once identified, these trends can then inform interventions. To read more about how the One Number works, click here.
Before the One Number was available, the best approximation for the number of people experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg was the annual Point-in-Time Count. The Point-In-Time Count is exactly that: a limited, one-night snapshot of a point in time designated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The One Number, then, represented a significant step toward a more comprehensive, timely enumeration of all the people experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
However, there are still many households who experience housing instability and/or homelessness that are not captured as part of the One Number. It is critical to identify the households “in the gap” to understand both the need for services and to construct effective solutions to address these needs. An important outcome of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS) is to identify and close the remaining gaps in data collection and reporting across the full housing continuum.
To that end, we are excited to share that, in August 2021 as part of the work to paint a full picture of housing instability and homelessness, we will be releasing a new data update that will attempt to comprehensively cover the full housing continuum. This improvement in gathering and reporting data will include existing features on the Housing Data Snapshot, like the One Number and Coordinated Entry, and will also seek to identify where applicable gaps exist. This update will be shared for the first time next month.
This week’s blog post provides the latest One Number update, including latest trends and analyses; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
ONE NUMBER TRENDS
Historical Change in One Number Population Totals
LATEST DATA & TRENDS
As of June 30, 2021, there are 3,137 individuals experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. This total includes 2,001 single individuals (of which 120 are unaccompanied youth); and 361 families (comprised of 1,175 people). Included in the total of 3,137 individuals are 223 homeless Veterans, and 518 individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness.
To view the historical data, please click here.
Considering inflow (into homelessness) and outflow (out of homelessness), here are some noteworthy trends:
- Between May and June 2021, there was a 254 person decrease in the total number of people experiencing homelessness. This reflects the highest percentage decrease (7%) since this time last year.
- In June 2021, 522 individuals entered homelessness (inflow) and 600 exited (outflow). Of the 522 individuals entering homelessness, 81% (424) were newly identified, whereas 9% (45) represented returns to homelessness from permanent housing. Of the 600 individuals exiting homelessness, 48% (285) moved to permanent housing. Most (315) individuals exiting homelessness in June 2021 were exited to inactive, which means that they had not been engaged in services for the previous 90 days.
- Despite the slight decreases observed between January and June 2021, there has been a 55% (or 1,112 person) increase in overall homelessness since June 2020. As context, it is important to note that, during this period and in response to COVID-19, the community’s temporary shelter capacity has increased; this added capacity includes the provision of hotel rooms as shelter. This data clearly reflects the ongoing need for housing assistance resulting from the fallout of the pandemic.
- Between May and June 2021, homelessness decreased across all types of household composition and categories: the number of families decreased by 121; the number of single individuals decreased by 145; and unaccompanied youth decreased by 11. In addition, the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness decreased by 20; and people experiencing chronic homelessness decreased by 23 individuals. Finally, the number of days it takes to exit homelessness into housing decreased from 421 days to 278 days. It is important to note that the average number of days includes long-stayers and people experiencing chronic homelessness. The number of days has not been lower than 150 since March 2020.
- 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 (77% vs. 33%) while individuals who identify as White, non-Hispanic experience homelessness at a rate much lower than their prevalence in the population (14% vs 47%). Individuals who identify as Hispanic/Latino have a prevalence of 3% in the homeless population but comprise 14% of the Mecklenburg County population; this reflects a possible underrepresentation of the people who experience homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and identify as Hispanic/Latino. In addition, the average length of time to housing for individuals identifying as Black/African American was 258 days; this compares to 345 days for individuals who identified as White and 571 days for individuals identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native. For individuals who identified as Hispanic/Latino, the average length of time to housing was 226 days, versus 280 days for those who identify as Non-Hispanic/Non-Latino.
- According to the latest One Number data, disaggregated by age, the largest cohort of all individuals (46%) are between the ages of 25 and 54. For families experiencing homelessness, 59% of the individuals are children (age 0 – 17); 8% are youth (age 18 – 24); 30% are adults (age 25 – 54); and 4% are older adults (age 55+). For single individuals experiencing homelessness, 6% are unaccompanied youth (age 18 – 24); 56% are adults (age 25 – 54); and 33% are older adults (age 55+).
The 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy marks the first time that the public and private sector have come together to address the full housing continuum, homelessness and upstream to households experiencing housing instability. By October 2021, CMHHS will produce a comprehensive, multi-year plan that considers solutions to address all aspects of the spectrum of housing needs, from prevention to shelter, to housing, and cross-sector supports.
As the May 2021 Building Bridges blog discussed, “some communities choose to break the problem down for various reasons, focusing on an individual component such as chronic or veteran homelessness. Others choose to tackle what is visible, like unsheltered homelessness. But parsing the problem only perpetuates the cycle that prevents communities from actually making real progress. Think about a ship approaching an iceberg. Typically, the bulk of the iceberg hides below the water. If the ship only attends to the part of the iceberg that it can see above the water, it can result in disaster. Similarly, communities risk failure if they do not consider the entirety of the problem: from housing instability to homelessness.”
The One Number is the best snapshot available for the number of people experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. But, like all data, the One Number has its limitations. First, the One Number is still an undercount of all people experiencing homelessness. It does not (yet) include all households experiencing homelessness through residency in hotels and/or motels; living in “doubled up” situations with family and/or friends; or who are residing in other types of temporary, residential settings. Therefore, it is helpful to think of the One Number as the floor: it is the most accurate minimum count of the number of people actively experiencing homelessness in the community. And it does not begin to scratch the surface of the number of people who are experiencing housing instability, teetering on the edge of homelessness. The national eviction moratorium enacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will expire in two days on July 31, 2021. According to the latest U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, more than 78,000 renter households in North Carolina likely face eviction in the next two months; and over 250,000 renter households across the state are behind on rent.
To develop comprehensive solutions that address the full continuum of need requires that we see the totality of the housing and homelessness iceberg, not just what’s visible above the waterline.
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 is the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) System Coordinator 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.
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.