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Myth or Fact? Misconceptions About Homelessness

This blog is part of an educational series connected to A Home For All, a community-wide effort to address homelessness and housing instability in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. United Way of Greater Charlotte was selected to lead its implementation and bring together key individuals and organizations to drive progress for the initiative.

Homelessness is a pressing issue that affects millions of individuals and families in the United States and over 3,000 of those people are right here in the Charlotte region. Despite its prevalence, homelessness is often surrounded by misconceptions. We will explore various myths and facts around homelessness in order to address some of the most critical points.

Myth or Fact #1: A Home For All is Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s first attempt at addressing homelessness and housing instability.

Myth! A Home For All is not Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s first overall attempt, but it is the most comprehensive community-wide effort to date, as it is the first plan to focus on the full complexity of the issues surrounding homelessness and affordable housing. A Home For All builds on decades of prior efforts to address these issues and is intended to improve the systems that serve those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Over 250 organizations and stakeholders, along with 70 experts in the fields of homelessness and affordable housing, were instrumental in creating the A Home For All framework. Mecklenburg County leaders selected United Way of Greater Charlotte to lead implementation and, in that capacity, the organization convenes Implementation Teams and a Technical Committee to drive the work forward.

Myth or Fact #2: Homelessness affects people from all walks of life.

Fact! Historically, most people experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg have been single adult men. In recent years, however, the number of families experiencing homelessness has surged. Additional affected groups include children and youth, veterans, women and individuals with disabilities. African-Americans stand as the most disproportionately affected group, making up 33% of the Mecklenburg County population yet representing 76% of people experiencing homelessness.[1] What’s more, some people who are currently living indoors are only one financial hardship away from homelessness.

Myth or Fact #3: The root cause of homelessness is bad individual decision-making.

Myth! Homelessness is rarely the result of a single factor but rather a complex mix of social, economic and personal circumstances. From housing-related issues, such as rising rental costs and limited affordable housing options, and untreated mental health issues to economic issues, such as job loss or low wages, root causes can vary widely. Lack of direct services or proper service coordination and volatile family situations are among other potential causes. While substance abuse can exacerbate homelessness, it is often a coping mechanism for underlying issues rather than the root cause.

Myth or Fact #4: Homelessness in Mecklenburg County is a local government issue.

Myth! In order to create a community where homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring and every person has access to permanent, affordable housing and the resources to sustain it, we must rally around this pressing issue as a unified community. From local nonprofits and corporations to individuals and, yes, government agencies, we all have essential roles to play in funding, planning, implementing and spreading the word about the forthcoming homelessness and housing security solutions.

Myth or Fact #5:  Homelessness is not just limited to the Uptown Charlotte area and surrounding neighborhoods.

Fact! While homelessness may be more visible in Uptown Charlotte, and urban centers in general, it exists in suburban and rural areas too. Solutions must be tailored to the specific communities and the unique needs of the individuals experiencing homelessness in those respective areas. A Home For All is a plan to fully address homelessness and housing security issues across the entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.

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[1] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard One Number by Race and Ethnicity; US Census