Published: Jun 30, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 28, 2012 02:17 PM
Figures from the latest “point-in-time” count of Durham’s homeless brought demands for action from members of the city-county Homeless Services Advisory Committee last week.
“Somebody is doing something wrong,” said committee member Stephen Hopkins. “Our numbers aren’t moving.”
The count, conducted in January, found 698 people in shelters or on the streets. The count in 2011 was 652 and in 2010, 675. In 2005, the year before Durham”s city and county governments adopted a “10-year Plan to End Homelessness,” the count was 535.
“We have to change what’s happening,” said Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden, the committee’s chairwoman. “We must change.”
Homeless numbers rose with the national economy’s slump, and some of the 2012 increase reflects changes in how the homeless are counted, according to a draft report the committee reviewed last week.
Still, the committee wanted to see some differences in Durham’s approach to homelessness.
“We need a better way to make sure the people we are counting and getting money for are actually benefitting from the money,” Hopkins said.
That money is an annual “Continuum of Care” grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, around $800,000 a year for Durham. HUD requires a point-in-time count for making a grant application.
As “homeless,” the count includes “individuals and families who lacked a fixed, regular, or adequate night-time address as well as those precariously housed,” the report says. Only 65 of the 698 individuals counted this year, 8 percent, were sleeping on the streets or in the woods.
Forty percent were in “transitional” housing, meant to be temporary shelter where formerly homeless people reside before moving into permanent homes. Almost 3 percent of those counted were in permanent housing that provided disability services.
“We continue to count the same people,” Cole-McFadden said. “We’ve got to get cleaner numbers.”
Sixty percent of the counted homeless were black, and 32 percent of the total had been out of jail or another institution for less than 30 days. The report recommends emphasizing programs that “address the unique gender, racial/ethnic and family characteristics of the homeless population,” such as black men just out of prison.
Continuum of Care money should “bring in African-American (service) providers,” committee member Joyce Payne said. “They are aware of problems in their own community other providers do not understand.”
This year’s CoC grants went to the Durham Housing Authority, Genesis Home, Housing for New Hope, Urban Ministries of Durham and CASA.