A coworker of mine recently went through a harrowing experience with her family while wrapping up a family vacation out of the country. They spent two weeks snorkeling, hiking, and enjoying the beauty of the country, making wonderful memories to enjoy together for years to come. Packed and ready to head home, they were stopped at the airport by the most unexpected tragedy.

The Point-in-Time Count captures two important numbers: the number of people experiencing homelessness on one night and the number of beds or units available to temporarily and permanently house them. That second number – the number of beds and units – is called the Housing Inventory Count. It is a number that is critical to understand trends and progress in the work to end and prevent homelessness. It is also often left out of the conversation. When we look at the Point-in-Time Count numbers, we must consider the change in capacity, too.

On the morning of February 1, I was assigned to the Fourth Ward district of Uptown Charlotte. One man that I interviewed told me that the primary reason he was not staying at a shelter was because his South Carolina ID was not acceptable for entrance. For me, this interaction brought to my attention the insular causes of homelessness that are exacerbated by federal and state policies regarding access to state-issued identification. It also encouraged me to consider the current requirements to enter emergency shelter as well as other services that people experiencing homelessness might require.

The 2018 Point-in-Time Count Survey includes questions about income source and average monthly gross amount received. While conducting point-in-time surveys, one of the things I consistently heard from people I interviewed was that underemployment was one of their biggest barriers to being able to obtain stable housing. Many said they were working but needed more consistent work, higher wages, and more hours. For involuntary part-time workers in low-income households, unpredictable and unstable incomes, being paid less per hour, and having an increased likelihood of experiencing intermittent periods of unemployment can result in prolonged housing instability and prolonged homelessness.

Are we as busy as we think we are?  Some of us may think we have time to devote to the things we love, however, when you dig into the scheduler, it’s easy to see how many opportunities we miss to do the things we cherish the most. It is hard to be too critical though, we are only human. If we want to ensure we are able to impact our community, we have to force ourselves to start making changes today.

The night of the 2018 Point-in-Time Count was January 31. Since January 15, volunteers have been completing surveys with people experiencing homelessness in emergency shelter and transitional housing. On Thursday morning, February 1st, volunteers go out into the streets and camps and other places unfit for human habitation in order to survey people experiencing homelessness outside. The Point-in-Time Count can be so much more than a census. It is an opportunity for us to lift up the voice of each and every person and family that is experiencing homelessness. We can do this by integrating what we learn from individual stories as well as the the data we collect to inform local decision-making around housing and homelessness. 

The night of the 2018 Point-in-Time Count occurs on January 31, 2018. This is when Charlotte-Mecklenburg counts the number of people experiencing homelessness in emergency shelter, transitional housing and on the streets. In 2017, that total was 1,476. The Point-in-Time Count helps communities like ours understand and describe the scope of homelessness on one night — the number and the characteristics. When we compare that number year over year and combine it with other performance data, we can better understand whether we are making progress in the work to end and prevent homelessness.

There are a number of changes to the 2018 Point-in-Time Count — some are changes required by the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and some are changes initiated from our community. Learn more here.

I took for granted as a young professional that affordable housing and homelessness were a part of the same conversation. The development challenges we face as a city – homelessness, a shortage of more than 21,000 units for those making 50% or less of our area median income, the lack of social mobility in specific zip codes, the impact and persistence of racial segregation – cannot be solved project-by-project or campaign-by-campaign. They require a larger, inclusive, multidisciplinary conversation.

Three new reports covering affordable housing, housing instability and homelessness will comprise the 2018 Housing Instability & Homelessness Report Series. The 2018 reports topics are described in this post.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard was released four months ago on August 21st. Currently, the Dashboard has data, local and national research, stories and a weekly blog. The goal of the Dashboard is to create a one-stop-resource for all housing and homelessness information in the community that anyone can access and use. Since its release in August, the Dashboard has been visited over 13,500 times. Taking out the initial release days when traffic was high, the Dashboard is visited on average about 100 times a day.