Each year, the Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council tracks the number of homeless living in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties.
The annual Point-in-Time Count is required by communities receiving federal funding from various agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development. WHQR’s Sara Wood reports the numbers were released this week, showing that out of a combined population of 350,000, almost 400 are homeless.
The number decreased from last year by about 100 people. Volunteers use one 24-hour period to visit shelters, soup lines and encampments to count those without a permanent roof over their head. Angela Keith is the chair of the council and says the decrease is good news. But the count also showed a 2 percent increase in the number of those facing additional obstacles like mental health, substance abuse and legal issues.
“This is a more vulnerable population and they’re hard to engage. And when engaging, they may find it more difficult to find housing due to stigma, lack of resources and past history.”
Keith says all communities receiving funds from various federal agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development are required to complete the count annually. New Hanover reported a total of 337 people experiencing homelessness, Brunswick reported 41 and Pender reported 20.
Keith says because the count only captures a 24-hour-snap shot, the actual number of people receiving services is probably two or three times greater than the count.
“One of the challenges is getting people to identify that ‘Yes I am homeless.’ So in other words, when we go out to the soup lines, there might be twice as many people there eating, who either state that they’re not homeless or will not engage at all.”
She says homelessness in rural areas is harder to detect than in a place like Wilmington where there are more resources and visibility. Keith says multiple families sharing one house is a trend in all three counties, but HUD doesn’t accept these numbers as part of the count.