After the North Carolina Stay at Home Order was issued nearly one year ago, the NC 2-1-1 system was flooded with calls by households seeking housing and financial assistance. 2-1-1 is the number that those facing a housing crisis in the state call to be connected to resources. In addition to an overall increase in callers, there also seemed to be a “new” at-risk population emerging from the shadows: individuals and families who had been paying either day to day or week to week to live in hotels or motels. While this form of homelessness pre-dates the pandemic, it has been considered “hidden” and there are little to no federal, state and/or local resources dedicated to addressing it. Faced with a sudden loss of income from COVID-19-related closures, these households were now on the edge of an entirely different type of homelessness: emergency shelter and/or unsheltered locations like parks, streets, cars and tents. In addition, as the novel coronavirus started to spread locally, the tidal wave of households newly in need of shelter also posed a potential public health crisis. This week’s blog provides an overview of the work to address this segment of the homeless population during the pandemic, and what this work can mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

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 how many people are experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The One Number is 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, Rapid Re-housing (if there is no move-in date to housing yet), and Coordinated Entry inventories 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 and 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. This week’s blog post provides the latest One Number update; trends and analysis; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

In June 2019, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) released the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Racial Equity Analysis tool. The Racial Equity Analysis (REA) tool was a critical first step in calling attention to disproportionality in the housing instability and homelessness continuum.  The REA tool describes the scope of racial disparities within our housing and homelessness system by analyzing and visualizing the racial and ethnic distributions of local homelessness and poverty rates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. In March 2020, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the CoC Analysis Tool: Race and Ethnicity. Utilizing Point-in-Time Count and American Community Survey data, the HUD tool showed the percentage of individuals in each Continuum of Care (CoC) who are living in poverty and/or experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness by race and ethnicity. The REA and CoC Analysis tools laid the foundation for the development of additional local data tools that will support monitoring of Housing Data Snapshot data, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, in order to address the structural and systemic inequities across the entire housing continuum. The Housing Data Snapshot incorporates the “One Number,” which tallies the total number of persons who are experiencing homelessness and have an open Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) project entry in Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Coordinated Entry, Street Outreach, and/or Rapid Rehousing (if there is no move-in date to housing) programs. The Housing Data Snapshot also provides a breakdown of inflow to the local homelessness system (newly identified individuals, persons returning to homelessness from permanent housing, persons returning to homelessness from an inactive status); outflow from the homelessness system (exits to permanent housing, exits to inactive status); and average length of time to housing. This week’s blog post is dedicated to the newly released One Number with data broken down by race and ethnicity.

Planning and investment efforts related to homelessness have, for well over a decade, primarily focused on the downstream components of the homeless services system.  These components seek to reduce homelessness by increasing access to and availability of, permanent housing (including subsidized and non-subsidized). This is true of communities across the United States, and of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, data in Charlotte-Mecklenburg indicated that almost 30,000 households face a formal eviction each year. More than 78,000 renter households experienced housing cost burden, which means they are spending more than 30% of their income on housing-related costs. These numbers have increased, and will likely worsen, as a result of the long-term economic fallout from the response to COVID-19. In reacting to the pandemic, communities have started to develop strategic housing and homelessness plans that integrate public health promotion with economic recovery. Homelessness prevention is the real key to both protecting the community and ensuring long-term housing stability. In fact, federal COVID-19 assistance has targeted prevention activities to ensure that households can stay safely in their homes during the pandemic. While prevention assistance may have been missing from prior community housing strategies and previous multi-year plans, it has now emerged as an incredibly critical component. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s focus on prevention assistance (as a system) started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. This focus has only sharpened since the pandemic began impacting households in our community. This week’s blog illustrates the genesis and evolution of a prevention assistance system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and what this early work means for the community.

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 its initial release, the One Number has become the “go-to” number for how many people are experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The One Number is 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, Rapid Re-housing (if there is no move-in date to housing yet) and Coordinated Entry project inventories in HMIS. The One Number includes both sheltered homelessness and a portion of 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 and by inflow/outflow), the community can identify trends.  Once identified, these trends can then inform interventions. We are excited to share today the latest One Number update, which includes a complete refresh of all historical One Number data; trends and analysis; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Last week, more than 40 individuals with diverse backgrounds, representing the public and private sectors, both for-profit and non-profit; as well as community advocates, participated in a two-day Design Sprint as part of “Evaluate Upstream.” Evaluate Upstream is a homelessness prevention system change effort focused on addressing structural factors that affect access to and sustainability of housing. The goal of Evaluate Upstream is to develop a comprehensive homelessness prevention assistance system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg that is grounded in shared accountability. The Design Sprint represented a critical pivot from the research, data collection, and systems mapping that occurred in the initial segments of this multi-phase process. The ideation that occurred during the Design Thinking “sprint” will lay the foundation for next steps, which will ultimately lead to the implementation of an effective, collaboratively designed prevention system. Evaluate Upstream was conceived well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It originated as a Continuum of Care (CoC) planning grant request that was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) over three years ago. The need identified at that time was the same as it is now: Charlotte-Mecklenburg has multiple organizations providing a range of prevention activities, but there is neither a unified strategy, nor a concerted effort to align the whole array of prevention resources to the needs of the populations at risk of experiencing homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic (and subsequent assistance disbursed from the federal government to keep households from eviction) has only underscored the need for an optimized prevention assistance system that is complementary to the rest of the housing ecosystem. The purpose of this week’s blog post is to provide an update on Evaluate Upstream, including implications of this work for the housing ecosystem and for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Each year, during the final Wednesday of January, Charlotte-Mecklenburg conducts an annual Point-in-Time Count.  This is intended to capture the number of people experiencing “literal homelessness” in the community. “Literal homelessness” is defined as residing overnight in an emergency shelter, safe haven, transitional housing facility, or in an unsheltered location unfit for human habitation. The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count (and the complementary Housing Inventory Count, or HIC) is a mandated activity of all Continuums of Care (CoCs) as a condition of receiving federal homelessness assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). HUD aggregates PIT & HIC data from over 395 CoCs as part of an annual report that is submitted to the U.S. Congress to inform funding decisions. For the past three years, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has gone above and beyond the minimum HUD requirements, asking locally-generated survey questions to better inform decision-making here. The annual PIT Count, referred to here as “EverybodyCountsCLT,” has historically been supported by staff and hundreds of volunteers who go out, often in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours, to survey those individuals experiencing homelessness and to deliver donated winter weather supplies. As with many things during the past year, communities have had to make adjustments to conduct this year’s Point-in-Time Count due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help communities in their planning efforts, HUD provided guidance to, and options for, communities to submit modifications or receive waivers. This week’s blog post provides an update on the 2021 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Point-in-Time Count and what it means for the community; and ways that individuals can meaningfully support the work, even during a health crisis.

It is (finally) 2021. The start of a new year, with the hope and promise of positive change. The time when we envision successful outcomes to the resolutions we just made. A time for new beginnings, a chance to start over. Yet the first days of January feel eerily like the last days of December. Has anything changed? Will anything truly change? If there are changes, how can we be sure that they are for the better, or the best? At the close of 2020, Congress passed another emergency COVID-19 relief package that provides some glimmers of hope. First, it extended the the federal eviction moratorium enacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through January 31, 2021. Second, it included $25 billion in assistance for housing. Of that total, it is estimated that North Carolina will receive over $698 million. Third, it postponed the deadline for communities to spend the Coronavirus Relief funds provided in the initial CARES Act, from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021. With $70 billion owed by U.S. renters in combined back rent, utilities, and late fees as of January 2021, this measure helps communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg both stave off the incoming wave of evictions and support the local economy. This week’s blog post covers the key provisions in the COVID-19 relief package, and what it means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  

During 2020, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard published 52 blog posts covering an array of topics, including the Point-in-Time Count; new report releases (and what they mean for the community); and local data and trends information. Throughout the year, more than 12,000 individuals accessed the Dashboard; there were over 36,000 pageviews as a result. Two all-new series were developed in response to COVID-19, focusing on how communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg can effectively address housing instability and homelessness during (and after) the pandemic. One of these (which includes the most-viewed blog post for 2020) covered innovative stopgap efforts that can be transformed into long-term “business-as-usual” solutions. The second pandemic-oriented series took a deeper dive into the components necessary for communities to develop a successful housing, public health, and economic recovery framework to effectively respond to COVID-19. In case you missed any of it, this final 2020 blog post is dedicated to the top ten posts (as measured by discrete views) from the year. Below are summaries; links to the “top ten” posts; and a final “so, what” for Charlotte-Mecklenburg to consider as the calendar is turned.