CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – The homeless population of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is steadily increasing month over month according to new data released by the county.
“The problem is much bigger than most people realize,” said Laura Gorecki, Dignity Director of Project spillsaid.
Data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Dashboard shows the homeless population increased by 239 people.
“We certainly see new faces on a fairly regular basis, and we also see people who have been homeless for a while but haven’t sought services,” Gorecki said.
The county said the homeless population is growing month by month, with the total standing at 2,666 countywide.
“It’s probably at least double what the numbers say,” Gorecki said.
The economy and housing prices contribute to the steady increase in homelessness.
“It is not surprising to see this trend given all that has happened,” said Kenya Joseph, vice president of Hearts for the Invisible Coalition, said. “I think that clearly reflects everything that’s going on in our world, doesn’t it. We’ve got inflation, we’ve got higher gas prices, layoffs have started, people have lost their jobs during COVID and were unable to find stable employment afterwards.
Nonprofits say counting the number of homeless people in the county is more difficult for several factors.
“Outside of that county number there are dozens of people who are homeless and living in their cars, those are not captured there, there are people who are homeless in the sense that they don’t have no primary tenancy or purchased property,” says Joseph.
The elimination of the tent city and visible encampments throughout the county also play a role.
Some people sleep in cars, live with other people or live deep in the woods for fear of being displaced.
“A big part of homelessness is of course the unaffordability of housing, and the housing just isn’t available, the lack of affordable housing,” Joseph said.
The latest data shows that Charlotte-Mecklenburg is short by 45,130 units for very low-income renters. Nonprofits tell WBTV that truly affordable rental prices are also needed.
“We need affordable housing that costs between $800 and $700, that’s what we really need,” Joseph said.
Both groups tell WBTV they meet people who have jobs but can’t afford rent in the area.
“It’s a very difficult problem to solve and it takes a lot of collaboration, a lot of agencies working together,” Gorecki said.
This includes landlords, developers and nonprofits working together to develop more affordable housing, and more landlords accepting housing vouchers.
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