|PHOTO | PETER SAFIR
|Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy Initiative announced the launch of a new campaign to alleviate homelessness in the county.
A public-private collaboration aims to make affordable housing more accessible and sustainable to Mecklenburg County residents.
Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy Initiative have announced the launch of an Enduring Structure with United Way of Central Carolinas as the lead agency. The Enduring Structure will be supported through the Mecklenburg County Manager’s Office and Community Support Services through a contract with United Way, which will oversee work, staff and financial support.
“This is the next step in this community-driven process, as recommended and described by the CMHHS Strategic Framework,” County Manager Dena Diorio said in a statement.
The Enduring Structure includes two committees supporting the program. The Advisory Committee will be made up mostly of private sector representatives, while the Technical Committee chaired by Stacy Lowry, director of Mecklenburg Community Support Services, will be made up of public and private sector technical experts and practitioners. People who have been or are homeless will be included on both panels.
“We know from the inclusive process that created the Strategic Framework that this work must belong to the entire community; private, public and practitioners as well as the voice of lived experience,” Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith said. “This is an exciting next step, and we look forward to quickly creating an Implementation Plan that will turn strategy into action and help us identify the necessary sources and uses.”
There’s a shortage of 26,000 affordable housing units in Mecklenburg County, and the gap is getting wider as the cost of renting or buying increase due to gentrification in working-class communities. The elderly and people with disabilities are among the fastest-growing groups in need of affordable housing solutions, with 70 homeless adults with disabilities identified in a January census among nearly 3,000 homeless people in the county.
According to the Age Friendly Mecklenburg action plan, the rise in homeless older people corresponds with an increased demand for affordable senior housing. Studies suggest supportive housing, along with alternatives to assisted living and nursing homes, lowers homelessness, increases housing stability, and improve residents’ health.
The stakeholders’ immediate goals are to identify short-term solutions through collaboration with the Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and partner agencies and continue developing a long-term implementation plan, through an expanded United Way team to manage the work.
“Bringing together partners from multiple sectors to solve our community’s greatest challenges is central to United Way’s mission,” said Laura Yates Clark, UWCC’s president and CEO. “We look forward to collaborating with nonprofit, government, business, philanthropic and faith partners to ensure our most vulnerable neighbors have the opportunity to achieve economic mobility.”
“This team of leaders has created a solid foundation and is ready to move to the next steps,” said DreamKey Partners chief strategy officer Erin Barbee. “Putting this Enduring Structure in place will move us forward with a community vision to support our most vulnerable neighbors.”
The project management team is made up of representatives from the city, county, Charlotte Center City Partners, Bank of America, Atrium Health and McKinsey and Co.