If you’ve paid any attention to the local news since yesterday [January 6, 2015] , you’ve heard the announcement that chronic homelessness will be solved in our community by December 31, 2016!
The Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg Ending Chronic Homelessness in 2016 initiative is now underway. A lot of conversations and planning have taken place over the past 18 months and I, for one, am proud that our community’s leadership – government, civic, nonprofit, faith, etc. – have finally drawn a line in the sand and said enough, our most vulnerable citizens deserve better! To learn more about the plan itself, I encourage you to go to the initiative’s website HousingFirstCharMeck.org.
The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) is one of many homeless services agencies serving people in our community who are experiencing homelessness and are considered chronically homeless (meaning they’ve been homeless often or for an extended period of time and they have an disabling condition, often mental illness). In fact, MSC provides safe shelter and supportive services to about 200 chronically homeless men each year. In FY2013-2014, 24% of the men MSC moved into more appropriate housing were chronically homeless – that’s over 100 chronically men who moved out of the shelter in just one year! So far in FY2014-2015, about 20% of the moves to more appropriate housing at MSC are with chronically homeless men. At MSC, we know first hand how this Housing First initiative can, and will, work to end chronic homelessness in our community. Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg aligns well with MSC’s mission to end homelessness for each man we serve. That’s why we’re excited about the plan and actively engaged to help the initiative succeed.
By declaring a date certain to end chronic homelessness, our community leaders have endorsed a solid plan that will work with everyone’s commitment. I was proud to stand with so many colleagues and community leaders yesterday as the plan was announced. I’m grateful for Mayor Clodfelter and County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller for fully committing our local governments to make this plan succeed. I’m grateful to hear my colleague Fulton Meachum, CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority, once again publically declare that homelessness would continue to be a preference for access to public housing. I’m proud of my colleague Dale Mullenix, from the Urban Ministry Center, for committing his agency to manage this project. Our business community, especially Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are to be commended for rallying the business sector around this plan. And last, but far from least, much credit goes to Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. Michael is the mastermind who quietly pulled everyone together and insisted we create a bold approach to solve the problem of chronic homelessness, first for those most vulnerable citizens who need our help, and then as another way to make our community a vibrant place in which to work and live.
The clock is now ticking and there is much work to be done. We will end chronic homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by the end of 2016. But that’s not the end of the story. We will then complete the work of ending homelessness for all in our community. MSC will certainly play it’s part. In addition to our stated mission of ending homelessness for each man, our agency’s vision to realize an end to homelessness in our community through fostering systemic change. Yesterday we all witnessed a seismic shift in our systemic approach to solving homelessness that will prove that, collectively, this community can realize an end to homelessness for all!