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Women + Girls Research Alliance

Homelessness and Rapid Re-Housing in Mecklenburg County


Homelessness and Rapid Re-Housing in Mecklenburg County The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute prepared this report in conjunction with the Women + Girls Research Alliance and with funding from the Alliance.


Table of Contents Introduction ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 1 Homelessness.................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 1 Homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.......................................................................................................................................................... 1 Causes of Homelessness.............................................................................................................................................................................................. 4 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program ................................................................................................................... 5 Individuals Served Through HPRP .................................................................................................................................................................. 6 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program Outcomes ...................................................................................... 7 Social Costs and Consequences of Homelessness ......................................................................................................................................... 8 Conclusion........................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 10


Introduction In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, like many other communities, homelessness affects many individuals and families. Homelessness can result from any of a number of unfortunate and often uncontrollable events. This report reviews the changes in homeless populations over the past several years and the impact federal funding has had on the homeless in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. This report also analyzes the change in the number of homeless individuals and in their characteristics over the past several years from the annual point-in-time counts conducted by the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness. This report reviews the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that was funded in between 2009 and 2012 and provided services for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing efforts.

Homelessness Homelessness occurs when an individual or family lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Oftentimes, homeless individuals are forced to sleep in places not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation, in a shelter, or transitional housing locations, including hotels or motels. To help combat homelessness, programs and services in Charlotte-Mecklenburg have been implemented and enhanced to prevent future homelessness and to assist women, men, and families who are experiencing homelessness. For example, HPRP was funded under the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). The purpose of the program was to prevent the expansion of the homeless population while working to provide outreach, services, and housing to individuals who were currently experiencing homelessness. Individuals in the program received services and support critical to helping combat and eradicate homelessness. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community, $1.9 million in HPRP funding assistance was provided from 2009 through 2012. At the end of the three-year program funding period, 1,353 total individuals received assistance through HPRP in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, including 562 women.1

Homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg The community has been challenged to provide services and shelter to these homeless individuals for many years. Each year on one night in January, a point-in-time count of the homeless population is conducted by the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness. This record of the number of unduplicated homeless people identified at the county and state levels provides a snapshot of who experiences homelessness on a given night. The one-time count does not represent a precise total of the homeless population. However, the counts do provide a way to track and assess changes in the homeless population over time.

1 The total

number of HPRP participants in Charlotte-Mecklenburg represents the grant-to-date total extracted from the 2012 performance report provided by the Neighborhood and Business Services Department of the City of Charlotte. The number of women aided through the HPRP program was calculated by adding the number of adult females in households served by HPRP from HPRP performance reports for 2010, 2011, and 2012.


The most recent January 2013 point-in-time count of the homeless population identified 2,418 individuals in the county who were homeless and who were sleeping in homeless shelters; transitional housing; or in places unfit for human habitation, including cars, parks, sidewalks, or on the street.2 The count represented 744 children, 667 women, and 1,007 men. The homeless population increased 14.8 percent from 2009 to 2011, peaking that year with nearly 2,900 individuals identified as homeless. Declines then occurred in 2012 and 2013. Overall, the number of homeless individuals identified by the 2013 point-in-time count was 2.5 percent (63 individuals) less than in 2009 (Figure 1).3

Figure 1

The number of homeless women identified by the point-in-time count had a similar pattern to the total number of homeless individuals over the past five years. The number of women identified as homeless peaked in 2011 (Figure 2), similar to the overall homeless population but has declined since. Thirty-nine more women were found to be homeless in 2013 than 2009. Women made up a sizeable portion (27.6 percent) of the total homeless population in Mecklenburg County in 2013.

2 North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, North Carolina

Point-in-Time Count Data. <http://www.ncceh.org/PITdata/>. 3 North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, North Carolina Point-in-Time Count Data. <http://www.ncceh.org/PITdata/>.

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Figure 2

Along with reporting the total number of individuals who are homeless, the point-in-time count identifies subpopulations of these individuals. Some of these groups include being a victim of domestic violence, having a chronic substance abuse issue, or being a veteran. In 2013, the point-in-time count began to identify the number of male and female veterans. Eighteen homeless females (2.7 percent of homeless women) were veterans in 2013. Future point-in-time counts will enable tracking of the rate of homelessness among female veterans in Mecklenburg County. Just as the number of homeless women changes from year to year, changes occur in their marital status and whether they are mothers. Since 2009, the number of sheltered mothers with children has increased annually. In 2013, 360 mothers were sheltered with their children, accounting for more than half (54 percent) of all homeless women in Mecklenburg County. This number nearly doubled from 2009 when 177 homeless mothers were identified by the point-in-time count. Additionally, the number of homeless women without children has declined annually since 2009. In 2013, 307 women without children were homeless, a 32 percent decline from 2009 (451 women without children) as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3

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To combat the homelessness of women, improvements have been made to provide additional and improved shelter to those without housing. Emergency shelters and transitional housing not only provide homeless individuals a safe place to sleep but also critical services to help create stability for homeless families and individuals. Support services include financial assistance, health care, counseling, meals, and advocacy. Figure 4 illustrates the number of women who were identified by the point-in-time count as residing in emergency and seasonal and transitional housing or who were unsheltered during the past five years. The 4 number of unsheltered homeless women declined 75.9 percent from 2009 to 2013. Although the number of women who sleep unsheltered declined during the past five years, the number of homeless women residing in emergency and seasonal and transitional shelters increased. In 2009, 81.5 percent (512) of homeless women were sheltered, and in 2013, 95.8 percent (639) were sheltered. The increase in the number of homeless females housed can, in part, be attributed to the opening of new shelters and the increased capacity at existing shelters over time.

Figure 4

Causes of Homelessness Homelessness can be caused by various circumstances and life events. For many, homelessness is caused by the inability to pay for housing.5 Financial constraintsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;including unemployment, poverty, low-paying jobs, and an inadequate supply of affordable housingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;can make acquiring and maintaining a home difficult.6 In 2011, the median gross rent was $862 in Mecklenburg County, making the cost of living in the community too high for many individuals and families.7 Maintaining a home or saving for a security deposit for a rental unit is difficult for women and men working in low-wage occupations. Employment alone does not guarantee adequate finances for a home. Low-income households tend to allocate a larger percentage of their income toward housing than higher earners. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), households that allocate

4 North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, North Carolina

Point-in-Time Count Data. <http://www.ncceh.org/PITdata/>. 5 National Coalition to End Homelessness State of Homelessness in America 2013 Report. 6 National Coalition to End Homelessness. <http://www.endhomelessness.org/>. 7 U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey Table B25064.

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more than 30 percent of their income for housing are identified as cost burdened.8 In 2011, 91.2 percent of households in Mecklenburg County that earned less than $20,000 per year and 76.5 percent of households that earned between $20,000 and $34,999 were cost burdened. The percent of cost-burdened households declines as income levels increase. For example, 46.5 percent of households earning between $35,000 and $49,999 were identified as cost burdened.9 Some women become homeless from financial hardship. Other women experience homelessness as a result of domestic violence. When a woman leaves an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, she may have nowhere to go. Because of the lack of social or financial support, she may end up homeless. If a domestic violence victim has little financial means, poor credit, and little or no stable income source, finding adequate, affordable housing can be difficult. Among homeless individuals in Mecklenburg County identified by the 2013 point-in-time count, 158 adults were victims of domestic violence, accounting for 9.4 percent of all homeless adults.10 They left their homes to flee abuse and turned to emergency or transitional shelter; some were unsheltered. Because various circumstances cause women to become homeless, prevention is increasingly imperative. Local agencies have implemented programs to assist homeless women, and federal programs such as HPRP also have provided support to reduce and prevent homelessness.

Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program During the Great Recession, record numbers of households and individuals experienced job loss, foreclosures, and economic instability, all of which can be factors that lead to homelessness. To address the risk of an increase in the homeless population, the 2009 ARRA appropriated $1.5 billion of stimulus funds to form HPRP. State and local governments were eligible to apply for federal HPRP grants through HUD, with funding running for roughly three years through 2012. The program aimed to serve two populations facing homelessness or housing instability, often caused by economic trouble: ď Ž Individuals and families currently in housing but at risk of becoming homeless and in need of temporary rent or utility assistance to keep from becoming homeless. ď Ž Individuals and families experiencing homelessness and in need of temporary assistance in order to obtain housing and retain it after temporary assistance ended (rapid re-housing). To aid these two populations, components within HPRP focused on preventing homelessness by providing financial assistance and ending homelessness by quickly re-housing homeless individuals and families. Types of financial assistance used to prevent homelessness included short-term (up to three months) and medium-term (up to 18 months) rental assistance, security deposits, utility payments or deposits, moving cost assistance, and hotel vouchers. Funds also could be used for housing relocation and stabilization services (rapid re-housing) that placed eligible homeless individuals and families in affordable and sustainable housing and for providing outreach and engagement, credit repair, and legal services.

8 U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. <http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/>. 9 U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey Table B25106. 10 North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, North Carolina

<http://www.ncceh.org/PITdata/>.

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Point-in-Time Count Data.


Communities and states were given discretion on how to best use appropriated HPRP funds. When the City of Charlotte received $1.9 million in HPRP funding assistance, local leaders decided funding would be used to provide assistance to â&#x20AC;&#x153;those hardest to serve and who, but for HPRP, would not be able to leave the local shelter.â&#x20AC;?11 The city partnered with Crisis Assistance Ministry, a local nonprofit agency and the Workforce Initiative for Supportive Housing to create Project HOPE to assist individuals and families with HPRP. With the goal of long-term stabilization and supervised by HPRP social workers and housing coordinators, teams of volunteers worked with homeless households. They placed them in affordable, adequate housing and performed careful assessments and planning. Homeless households and individuals also received services and assistance in transitioning from homeless to housed. Individuals Served Through HPRP Funds from HPRP aided homeless individuals or those on the verge of homelessness in multiple ways. The city reported the total number of individuals who received services in two categories that were nonexclusive, meaning individuals could be identified in either one or both categories: Homeless Assistance and Homeless Prevention. During the three-year period of grant funding from 2009 through 2012, 1,353 total individuals and 717 households in Mecklenburg County received some form of assistance through HPRP. Individuals who participated in the program were reported for the year(s) services were received. During the funding period, more women were served annually than men, as illustrated in Figure 5.12

Figure 5

In 2010, 52.8 percent of all adult HPRP participants were women with children. For the full funding period, 40.5 percent of all participants served were mothers. The number of homeless mothers with children increased in recent years in the community. Thus, HPRP funding presented an opportunity to address this growing population by providing financial and housing assistance to these individuals. In total, the program provided services to 300 individuals through Homeless Assistance and 1,057 individuals through Homeless Prevention. Figure 6 illustrates the breakdown in the number of individuals who received 11 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program Impacts: Case Studies in Community Change. 12 City of Charlotte HPRP Annual Performance Report 2012.

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services for Homeless Assistance and Homeless Prevention as well as the total number of unduplicated individuals located in the final two columns. Homelessness Prevention

Rental assistance Security/utility deposits Utility payments Moving cost assistance Motel & hotel vouchers

Homeless Assistance

Total Served by HPRP

Total Persons Total Households Total Persons Total Households Total Persons Total Households 1,042 607 275 99 1,313 700 0 0 200 75 200 75 9 4 221 78 221 78 0 0 2 1 2 1 0 0 54 14 54 14

Total served with Financial Assistance

1,042

607

275

99

1,313

700

Case management Outreach & engagement Housing search and placement Legal services Credit served repair with Housing Total

1,057 0 0 15 0

613 0 0 6 0

300 0 300 0 0

110 0 110 0 0

1,353 0 300 15 0

717 0 110 6 0

Relocation & Stabilization Services

1,057

613

300

110

1,353

717

Figure 6

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Of the total served by HPRP, all received case management assistance. Nearly all (97 percent) received rental assistance, a crucial form of aid to those on the verge of losing their home. Other forms of assistance provided to HPRP participants included help with utility payments, utility or security deposits, housing search and placement, and motel and hotel vouchers. Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program Outcomes Participants were asked about the number of persons in the household and their housing status and stabilityâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;if they were literally homeless, imminently losing their housing, unstably housed and at-risk of losing their housing, or if they were stably housed. This information was collected to provide participants with services that would be the most beneficial. Figure 7 illustrates the breakdown in housing status for participants upon entry into the program during each reporting period. During each reporting period from 2009 to 2012, the majority of participants said they were literally homeless, while the remaining participants said they were imminently losing housing. No participants in any reporting year entered the program and reported to be unstably or stably housed.

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City of Charlotte HPRP Annual Performance Reports 2010, 2011, 2012.

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Figure 7

Upon exiting the program, participants were asked again about their living situation to identify if housing stabilization had occurred. Figure 8 illustrates the housing status at program exit for participants in each reporting period who exited the program during this time. For each reporting year, the majority of participants were found to be stably housed. No individuals reported being literally homeless upon their exit from the program in 2012. Four participants were literally homeless in 2010 and 14 in 2011. For many participants, HPRP appeared to have helped by providing more stable housing options upon exiting the program and potentially offsetting the chance of future homelessness.

Housing Status at Program Exit Literally homeless at exit Imminently losing housing at exit Unstably housed and at risk of losing housing at exit Stably housed at exit Unknown or Missing

2010 4 0

2011 14 17

2012 0 3

1 39 3

23 786 24

3 379 0

Figure 8

Social Costs and Consequences of Homelessness Homelessness comes with many costs, not only for the individuals who are unsheltered but for the entire community. Individuals face difficulties related to poor health and health care access, educational opportunities for themselves and their children, and criminal activity and incarceration. Communities face rising costs associated with providing housing and shelters, health care access, and academic support as well as increasing demands on the criminal justice system. Many women enter homelessness with preexisting health or mental health conditions. Some develop new problems due to exposure to the elements, poor hygiene, inadequate diet, and an increase in stress caused by the instability of homelessness. Without treatment, ailments can worsen or cause additional health issues. Without regular medical care to address health problems, the hospital emergency department often becomes the health care provider of first and last resort. Many homeless individuals have no health insurance and no 8


means to pay for medical treatment. As a result, the cost of hospitalizing the homeless can be burdensome and have a substantial impact on health care systems. Homeless individuals often arrive at the hospital with underlying health issues. Because there is no place to send them after their medical crisis has been treated, they are prone to require longer hospital stays than other patients who are housed. One study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that, on average, homeless individuals spent an additional four days in a hospital per visit than their housed counterparts. This additional time cost an extra $2,414 per hospitalization.14 Homeless mothers also must provide health care for their children. Children experiencing homelessness have a greater likelihood of developing health problems such as nutritional deficiencies or asthma.15 The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope operates a free health clinic for homeless women and their children, but access to the clinic may be difficult because of lack of transportation and because of the center’s capacity constraints.16 As a result, children may have ailments that go untreated, adding to the emotional and physical stress that comes with being homeless. Children experiencing homelessness also have special educational needs. Unstable living environments brought on by homelessness can affect school success. Homeless children may need additional academic support to overcome these instabilities.17 In Charlotte, A Child’s Place provides homeless children with the tutoring, emotional support, and encouragement needed to succeed in the classroom despite their living circumstances. Promoting the success of homeless children in the classroom helps them properly develop along with their housed peers and minimizes educational disruption. Criminal activity is another consequence of homelessness that is costly to the community. Research studies have found that homeless individuals spend significant time in jail from breaking laws specifically targeted to the homeless such as loitering, begging, and sleeping in cars. One study conducted by the University of Texas surveyed homeless individuals during a two-year period and found that each individual cost taxpayers, on 18 average, $14,480 annually, primarily due to overnight jail time.

Homeless women may spend time in jail or prison for offenses ranging from disturbances to theft and substance abuse, which can be extremely costly to state and local governments. When incarcerated women are released from prison, they often have nowhere to go. Their criminal records make obtaining a job or finding affordable housing difficult. Transitional and supportive housing options can facilitate a successful reentry into society for formerly incarcerated women. These housing options link women with treatment, jobs, education, and assistance programs needed for successful reintegration and financial stability.

14 National Coalition to End Homelessness: Cost of Homelessness <

http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/cost_of_homelessness>. 15 The National Center on Family Homelessness <http://www.familyhomelessness.org/index.php>. 16 The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte < http://www.salvationarmycarolinas.org/commands/charlotte/programs/coh>. 17 A Child’s Place <http://www.achildsplace.org/>. 18 National Coalition to End Homelessness: Cost of Homelessness < http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/cost_of_homelessness>.

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Conclusion Ending homelessness requires the use and collaboration of multiple community resources to reduce and prevent its occurrence. It also requires working to provide homeless individuals and families with what is needed most: a stable place to reside. The HPRP program successfully provided stable housing and financial assistance to many homeless women, men, and children during its existence. Program participants were afforded stable housing at their exit from the program, lessening the impact of homelessness on the community. Although annual point-in-time counts have shown that the overall homeless population has decreased annually since peaking in 2011, federal programs and local nonprofit organizations need to continue providing stable housing and preventive support for those in need.

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Homelessness and Rapid Re-Housing in Mecklenburg County