Family homelessness now target

In October 2015, Mayor Allen Joines announced that the city had met its challenge of ending veteran homelessness in the area.

Family homelessness now target
February 02
09:00 2017

Chronicle file photo



In 2014, the United Way of Forsyth County joined forces with the city and the county to form the Commission on Ending Homelessness by amending the 10-year plan adopted in 2006 to end all homelessness in the area.

Just one year later, Mayor Allen Joines announced that with the help of the commission, the city had met its challenge of ending veteran homelessness in the area.

As he stood inside the city chamber after making the announcement in the fall of 2015, Joines thanked the work of the commission, the United Way and other organizations for their hard work and dedication.

“When enough spider webs come together, you can tie down a lion. We had a lot of spider webs here to tie this lion,” said Joines. “Having these partnerships have really been a game-changer.”

With veteran homelessness “tied down” for the moment, the commission, which consist of 16 voting commissioners appointed by City Council and the County Commissioners, is in the process of developing a new strategic plan that will focus on ending family homelessness, which has been growing per the latest point-in-time tally.

According to a point-in-time count of the homeless in 2016 of the 544 people who were considered homeless 144 individuals were part of a family, compared to 121 in 2015. During an interview with The Chronicle earlier this week, chief staff person for the commission, Andrea Kurtz, said although she is proud of the work the commission has done so far, now is the time to take the next step.

“We have met our goals, so now we are looking to ensure families have the help they need,” said Kurtz. “We are not done. This is only the beginning.”

One way they are looking to help families in need is by investing in housing development.

In recent years, the commission has partnered with the N.C. Housing Foundation, the Experiment in Self-Reliance, the city’s community and business development department and several other organizations to help families find affordable housing.

“Last year, we met our goal for housing development. Now we are taking steps to invest in the housing stock,” Kurtz said.

“A lot of the houses here are old, so if we don’t address this issue now it will continue to be a problem in the future.”

Another point of concern for the city’s fight to end homelessness in the area is the number of young adults who are considered homeless or displaced. The point-in-time count from 2015 shows only 17 homeless people between the ages of 18-24, in 2016 that number jumped to 41.

When discussing helping young people get on their feet, Kurtz admits that the commission must take a new approach. She said, “We don’t have a well-established system for serving young people.

“Their needs are a little different than veterans and other adults, so I think it is important that we take a different approach when addressing homelessness among our young adults,” she continued. “Many of these people are out on their own for the first time and that can be a hard time.”

Last week, the United Way of Forsyth County held its annual Homeless Point-in-Time count. Each year volunteers from around the city count the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the area. Although the official totals will not be in until early April, Kurtz said the commission is already working hard.

She said after seeing children sleeping outside last Wednesday night when temperatures were in the low 30s, she was crushed.

“For the first time in 10 years, we actually saw young children sleeping outside,” said Kurtz. “I’m proud of the work we have done so far but this is not the end. We have to do more.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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