Thursday, January 24, 2008

Charlotte Region's Growth Strains Homeless Service Providers

From the Charlotte Observer:
Since 2000 an average of 39,000 people a year have moved into Mecklenburg County from out of state; 20,000 from another N.C. county; and 6,400 from overseas, the American Community Survey reports.In 10 years, the county's population will jump to 1.3 million from roughly 900,000, the Charlotte Chamber estimates.

No one knows exactly how many newcomers are poor or jobless, but a UNC Charlotte analysis of government statistics suggests "a lot of newcomers are poor, come here seeking opportunities and don't find them," said Jeff Michael, director the university's Urban Institute, which compiled the report.

The study found the percentage of people living in poverty in Mecklenburg County rose to about 11.3 percent in 2005 compared with 9.2 percent in 2000.


At the Salvation Army homeless shelter for women near uptown, officials tracked how many people sought shelter who had been in Mecklenburg less than one year. They found more than 1 in 4 clients were newcomers from July 2006 through June 2007.

Last week, 205 women and their children slept at the 200-bed facility. Some 50 other clients spent the night at a local church.

To ease crowding, administrators recently decided they will not admit anyone who is not a resident of Mecklenburg or neighboring counties, except in cases of domestic violence.

"We get dozens of calls each day asking if we have space," said Deronda Metz, director of social services for the Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte. "If the call is from a noncounty resident, we say no."

The number of homeless children attending Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools jumped to more than 2,200 in 2007 from roughly 1,900 a year earlier, said Peter Safir, director of the Homeless Services Network, a coalition of local social outreach agencies.

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