CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - Mecklenburg County's annual homeless count kicks off Thursday morning, with volunteers planning to visit shelters, soup kitchens, camps and other areas frequented by the homeless.
Called the "Point in Time Count, the annual affair shows the scope of homelessness in the county, including whether or not it is a growing problem. The count also reveals whether or not programs funded by taxpayers are working.
Unlike like last year, this year's count will expand to include every person who is without a stable home. That means counting those in transitional housing programs as well as those on the streets and emergency shelters. Transitional housing programs provide temporary lodging for people who are completing programs for such things as substance abuse.
Organizers say that change will provide a "richer, fuller picture" of the county's homeless population.
Findings from last year's count showed there were 1,476 people experiencing homelessness in a single day in January.
The count revealed overall homelessness decreased by 519 people since 2010, including fewer homeless veterans and fewer chronically homeless people. The chronically homeless are those who have lived on the streets for years, largely due to addictions of disabilities.
However, the number of unsheltered homelessness increased 15 percent from 2016 to 2017. That includes those living in abandoned homes, camps and sleeping on benches. There was also a jump in the number of homeless people who have jobs but can't afford a place to stay.
Both the Salvation Army Center of Hope shelter for women and children and the Men's Shelter of Charlotte have been at capacity most nights in recent months. As a result of that, they have been turning people away.