The man with despair in his eyes, disdain on his face, desperation etched on cardboard. Some people may pretend he doesn’t exist, but he is not invisible.
The homeless population grew over the recession. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Homeless Services Network shows the combined community count of homeless persons [excluding Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools] for summer 2010 was up 46 percent from summer 2007.
In February 2010, the Urban Ministry Center partnered with New York City-based Common Ground and other service providers on an initiative to complete a vulnerability index to identify chronically homeless individuals. The initiative surveyed 807 chronically homeless individuals in Charlotte, and it found that nearly half had a high mortality risk and pose a very significant challenge to the homeless service community. The average community cost of a chronically homeless person is more than $37,000 a year in shelter, emergency room, hospital stays, and jail time, UMC’s research shows.
But Rev. Tony Marciano, executive director, Charlotte Rescue Mission, said that the costs stretch beyond dollars and cents.
“When you’re talking about women with children, we know that 70 percent of women have tested positive for substance abuse upon admission into our community shelters’ program, and if you average two children per mom you’re talking 2,000 children growing up with a mom in active addiction,” he said. “Those children will most likely become addicts themselves or if they become teetotalers, they will still struggle through life using survival skills they used as a 6-, 8-, and 10-year-old . . . That’s what nobody is thinking about: What happens in the family system?”
Kathy Bolster, director of shelter operations at Charlotte Family Housing, said that children who are homeless are more likely to experience: emotional problems, health problems, are less likely to graduate from high school and go onto college, and are more likely to repeat the cycle of homelessness if it is not interrupted by some sort of intervention. A Child’s Place Executive Director Annabelle Suddreth added: “The odds are against homeless children. They tend to fall behind their classmates academically – often two to three grade levels. We have no way of knowing the intellectual potential of homeless children that remains untapped. Investing in them now through early intervention services, which cost our community much less, improves homeless children’s odds of achieving the education they’ll need to become productive citizens later. Helping homeless children fulfill their dreams will help our community fulfill its dreams, too.”
The 2012 Charlotte Point-in-Time Count found 2,567 people are homeless in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County on a single night – 301 were unsheltered, 1,295 were in transitional housing and 971 were in emergency or seasonal.
The Charlotte Post