Rummaging through old storage boxes, I came across a paper I worked on almost three decades ago, in the fourth grade. The paper was on homelessness, and it was actually the culmination of a whole unit devoted to the topic. I have no conscious recollection of writing it. But I believe that introduction to the topic made an imprint on me, shaping the worldview that I have today. My fourth grade teacher was organized enough to leave behind clues of what we did: we watched a video about a person named Eddie who had experienced homelessness, to see how difficult life is to survive on the streets; we heard from other speakers about how people who experience homelessness fall outside of our circular economy; we saved grocery receipts to learn firsthand how expensive food is; and we read “The Boxcar Children” to help us learn and develop empathy for peers who experience homelessness. Looking back, I’m blown away. Having been exposed to, and invited to struggle with, these complex issues at that age, how could I not both pay attention to, and want to do something about, them as an adult? As part of the new monthly series on the state of housing in the community, today’s blog consists of two primary components: a high-level summary of the latest data and trends on housing instability, homelessness, and affordable housing; and a curated list of relevant housing-related news and research from the month prior. Together, these items are intended to keep all stakeholders in the community informed about both the challenges and the solutions related to addressing the problems of housing instability and homelessness.

As Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” In March 2020, Roof Above – our team and those we serve – faced impediments all around us.  With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roof Above immediately recognized that how we sheltered people, fed people, and offered services had to change to keep those we serve and the community safe. We scoured our city for motel partners to offer the critical need of socially-distanced emergency shelter. It was in that pursuit that I first walked into a hotel at the intersection of Clanton Rd. and Interstate 77 in the spring of 2020. The hotel was facing its own impediments.  Largely providing one-night stays to people passing through our community, the hotel was struggling given the steep drop off in travel. Each organization was struggling with our own pandemic driven challenges. But, together, we found a new path forward. Several weeks later, Roof Above was under contract to purchase the hotel – first to temporarily use it to serve the community’s emergency shelter need and then to transform the hotel to a permanent supportive housing community. The new apartment community – SECU The Rise on Clanton – welcomed our first tenants last week. 

In 2014, the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) required that communities implement a Coordinated Entry system. The goal of an effective Coordinated Entry system is to allocate available resources effectively and with transparency. Most importantly, it takes the burden off of individuals seeking assistance in the midst of a crisis in that they just need to call one place vs. calling each agency to inquire if there are resources and if they are eligible.

As part of the new monthly series on the state of housing in the community, today’s blog consists of two primary components: a high-level summary of the latest data and trends on housing instability, homelessness, and affordable housing; and a curated list of relevant housing-related news and research from the month prior. Together, these items are intended to keep all stakeholders in the community informed about both the challenges and the solutions related to addressing the problems of housing instability and homelessness.

On behalf of Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS), I am pleased to share the news that we have created an Enduring Structure with the United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC) as the local non-profit lead agency. We are thrilled that the United Way of Central Carolinas has agreed to step into this role and provide their unique expertise as we create a structure that will codify this work. This is the next step in this community-driven process, as recommended and described by the CMHHS A Home for All Strategic Framework. This update will provide an overview of the Enduring Structure, including what it is and what it will do, and ultimately, what it means for all of Mecklenburg County.

Paid off eviction debt. Paid off utility debt. Set a workable budget. Stuck to my budget! Negotiated better pay at work. Cut expenses. Started saving. Added to savings. Did all I was supposed to do to be ready to secure permanent housing. Why am I not finding a place I can afford to live? Staff heard this lament over and over again from housing participants of our Women In Transition and Families Together programs at YWCA Central Carolinas. The challenge grew more difficult year after year. We shared their frustration: How can we deliver on the promise of safe, affordable housing for the individuals and families we serve when demand far exceeds supply and what supply exists is reducing rapidly? The purpose of this post is to share information about how YWCA has wrestled with this question, and how we are seeking to answer it. Finally, we will share what we believe this can mean for the work to end and prevent homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Last week’s blog mentioned some “ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” coming to the Building Bridges blog post, including the impending arrival of two new anchor posts. Today’s blog marks the release of the first of the two: the new “State of Housing” monthly update for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. With a new look and format, this monthly update consists of two components: a high-level summary of the latest data and trends on housing instability, homelessness, and affordable housing; and a curated list of relevant housing-related news and research from the previous month. Together, these items are intended to keep all stakeholders in the community informed about both the challenges and solutions related to addressing the problems of housing instability and homelessness. This week’s blog post describes the current state of housing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and what this means for the community.

“Strange fascination, fascinating me / Ah, changes are taking / The pace I’m going through.” These are lyrics from David Bowie’s song, “Changes,” which was originally released on the 1971 Hunky Dory album. Becoming one of his most popular songs of all time, pieces and parts of “Changes” have also appeared in films; been studied in classrooms; and used in all kinds of settings to represent (and unpack) the meaty concept of change. In fact, the song has also been used by those who have studied Bowie, deemed the “chameleon of rock” as a “manifesto of his entire career.” Out of context, this song is all about change; and it has come to mean (and give) different things to different people. But, put into historical context, the meaning is given even more weight: the album in which “Changes” was released came at a time when Bowie was reinventing his artistic identity, in which those fascinations were setting the pace for what was to come, and which, ultimately, would define his career. Similarly, this week’s blog is meant to outline some changes in how we communicate data about housing instability and homelessness, including through the Building Bridges Blog posts; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard; and the 2022 State of Housing Instability and Homelessness Report. This post provides an overview of those changes, what any of this has to do with David Bowie, and what this can mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Last week’s blog, “A Home for All Strategic Framework: What’s the Cost? Part 1” explored what goes into calculating the cost to end and prevent homelessness and why coordinated funding alignment is necessary. When the Strategic Framework was released in January 2022, it did not include an itemized list of expenditures nor a big-ticket funding request of any body. This was absolutely intentional. Funding recommendations will ultimately be offered as part of the implementation plan. However, one of the biggest topics of discussion has been, and will continue to be: “What does it cost to end and prevent homelessness?” Other relevant questions include, “Who is/will be on the hook?” “Is this a $50 million problem; a $250 million issue; more?” Is this going to be advanced as a one-time ask?” “What is the annual cost to sustain these efforts?” This week’s blog builds upon the content from last week, sharing examples of what from other communities are expending on similar efforts; and what all of this could mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.