In April, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS) was launched. CMHHS is a comprehensive community-wide effort involving the public, private and non-profit sectors to develop a strategic plan to end and prevent homelessness in our community. As co-chairs for the working group launching the new strategy, we are pleased to share participation has grown to include over 200 individuals and over 115 organizations. Participants include those from the county, city, and school system; corporate and business sectors; healthcare, workforce development, childcare, transportation and other complementary sectors; non-profits; funding and faith communities; and housing developers, landlords and real estate entities. It was also important to us that we include providers who serve on the front lines, and individuals with lived experience with housing instability or homelessness. And, we continue to grow. By October 1, 2021, this group will have established a five-year strategic plan to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg become a national leader in addressing current and preventing future homelessness by offering aligned strategies, unified goals, and clear funding pathways. Our shared vision is that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring in Charlotte-Mecklenburg where every person has access to permanent, affordable housing as well as the resources to sustain it. The purpose of this update is to share information about the milestones we have achieved since our launch and next steps, in addition to what this means for the people in our 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 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 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 (those enrolled but not yet housed); and Coordinated Entry inventories 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 One Number can also be analyzed by inflow to, and outflow from, 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 interventions. This week’s blog post provides the most recent One Number update; latest trends and analyses; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Over the last two weeks, the Building Bridges blog has focused on the recent shift in attention, energy, and investment in expanding affordable housing solutions, especially in response to COVID-19. These efforts include the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS), launched in April to address the full housing continuum – from homelessness to households experiencing housing instability. Last week’s blog post discussed the role of benchmarking local progress with that of peer communities as solutions are developed and/or outcomes are evaluated; and describes how Charlotte-Mecklenburg compares with five peer communities on key housing and homelessness metrics. The post just prior focused on the essential documents to read to fully understand, and therefore address, the entire “housing and homelessness iceberg.” Strategic housing plans are not new. In 2006, Charlotte-Mecklenburg launched “More than Shelter: a 10-year implementation plan to end and prevent homelessness.” The “ten-year plan” model was also adopted by other communities across the United States. Having not met the goal at the end of ten years, many communities have released revisions and/or new iterations, often with shorter time frames. Some communities have no advertised plan. In response to recent funding associated with COVID-19, however, even communities without plans have been forced to think about how best to appropriate this historic infusion of housing dollars from a system-level view. By October 1, 2021, the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy plans to develop and launch a new, multi-year, comprehensive plan to end and prevent homelessness in the community. This week’s blog post is focused on the elements that make a “good” housing strategic plan; highlights examples from other communities; and discusses what this could ultimately mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Last week’s blog post highlighted the recent shift in attention, energy, and investment in expanding affordable housing solutions, especially in response to COVID-19. In addition, the blog spotlighted the 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy (CMHHS), which represents the first time that the public and private sector have come together to address the full housing continuum – from homelessness to households experiencing housing instability. This kind of approach is critical to produce solutions that are both comprehensive and sustainable, resulting in real progress. Charlotte-Mecklenburg is not the only community facing challenges related to housing instability and homelessness. There are multiple communities working to address these challenges. Benchmarking local progress (or lack thereof) with that of other peer communities can be helpful as solutions are developed and/or outcomes are evaluated. This week’s blog post describes how Charlotte-Mecklenburg compares with five peer communities on key housing and homelessness metrics; and what this may ultimately mean for the community.

Last week saw the conclusion of Evaluate Upstream, a year-long, community planning process. Evaluate Upstream intended to develop a comprehensive and sustainable prevention assistance system for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Funded by a Continuum of Care (CoC) planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and launched by Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, Evaluate Upstream had the following goals: to document existing prevention resources across Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and determine whether and how they work together; to design an optimally functioning prevention network; and to develop an evaluation framework for an impactful homelessness prevention system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. “Prevention” is defined as a category of assistance that targets households “upstream” from homelessness; these individuals and families are facing housing instability but have not yet lost their housing. Applying this definition, prevention assistance exists on a continuum; assistance can be administered not only prior to the loss of housing, but even after households exit into permanent housing with the goal of helping them sustain it. Prevention includes three tiers of assistance: 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. The purpose of this blog post is to share the process and output of Evaluate Upstream, including the crafting of a blueprint for a prevention assistance system. This blog will also discuss how this work will shift from planning to implementation; and ultimately, what this 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” for the count of people who 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 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 One Number can also be analyzed by inflow to, and outflow from, 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 interventions. This week’s blog post provides the most recent One Number update; latest trends and analysis; and what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Today a broad consortium of the public, private and non-profit sectors is pleased to announce the launch of a comprehensive community-wide effort to create a strategic plan around housing instability and homelessness in our community: 2025 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Strategy. As co-chairs for the working group which is launching the new strategy, we are pleased to share that nearly 50 city, county, corporate and non-profit leaders, including those who serve on the front lines of housing instability and homelessness and those with lived experience are all part of this comprehensive community undertaking. And, the effort will continue to grow with more leaders continuing to be added to this team. By October 1, 2021, this group will have developed and begun to launch a five-year strategic plan to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg become a national leader in addressing current and preventing future homelessness by offering aligned strategies, unified goals, and clear funding pathways. Our shared vision is that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring in Charlotte-Mecklenburg where every person has access to permanent, affordable housing and the resources to sustain it.  This plan will be presented to both City and County for consideration as adopted policy. The same entities, doing the same things, in the same ways, will never produce different results. It is critical that we, as a community, change our approach. The purpose of this community update is to share a more in-depth introduction to this effort, including goals and initial milestones, and what this work can mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and beyond.

Last week, the Building Bridges blog launched a new series, reflecting upon each of the six potential short-term interventions enacted in response to COVID-19 that could become long-term “business as usual” practices. During the past year, there has been an infusion of public and private housing-related assistance to address the impacts of COVID-19 and help keep people housed. Most recently, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) appropriates approximately $50B in housing-related assistance for lower-income households facing housing instability or currently experiencing homelessness; these funds will also indirectly help struggling landlords and property owners. While the COVID-19 relief packages can help address issues caused by the pandemic, they do not resolve the pre-existing conditions of housing instability and homelessness that predated it. Housing instability and homelessness is already trending in the wrong direction and are only likely to worsen as a result of COVID-19. Ending and preventing homelessness is arduous work even in a booming economic cycle, and without the added system stressor of a pandemic. How funding is allocated matters, whether new or pre-existing. How can communities leverage existing resources and ensure new funding goes as far as possible?  What new ways can funding be paired or deployed to address structural issues that predate the pandemic? What new funding mechanisms can transition into long-term change catalysts? How can new and existing public and private funding align to maximize impact and drive systemic solutions? This week’s blog post is dedicated to issues of flexibility and sustainability of funding to address housing instability and homelessness in response to COVID-19; and what this could ultimately mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

In response to COVID-19, and throughout the pandemic year, everyone has had to make changes. Routines. Work. School. Childcare. Travel. Time. Businesses have been forced to adapt just to stay afloat. Governments have modified policies and sought to fill in gaps to keep people safe and healthy. Change has been truly the only constant. Importantly, some changes have been good. When looking back, what changes, whether at the individual or organizational level, are worth keeping: How we think about how we spend our time and resources? How we think about and use our space at home and work? How our routines have improved work-life balance? How business practices have empowered employees to be more productive through increased flexibility and enhanced support? How we have increased investment in the lowest income households, who need it most? How we have shifted to non-congregate shelter environments? How COVID has reframed the concept of housing as healthcare? One year ago, the Building Bridges blog launched a series on short-term housing and homelessness interventions enacted in response to COVID-19 that could become long-term “business as usual” practices. One year later, this new blog series will reflect on each of the six potential short-term-to-long-term interventions; provide an update with examples from other communities; and share what this could ultimately mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.