New approach to fighting homelessness

Published: Aug. 23, 2013 at 9:42 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2013 at 9:42 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Catch the crowd of 500 to 600 people gathered at the Urban Ministry Center uptown on any given day - it's just one of Charlotte's numerous shelters - and the sheer size of the problem becomes immediately visible.

There are over 7,000 homeless people in our area.

It's one of the most pressing and complex issues facing the community. But this morning, United Way unveiled a new initiative that will transform the way these local professionals help the homeless.

"This is a big deal," Executive Director of United Way of Central Carolinas Jane McIntyre says, adding that to understand the new program, you have to understand this - the identity of the average homeless person will surprise you.

"The person on the street corner represents probably the chronic homeless," she says. "And that's about 15% of the population. But there's a huge spectrum of people that are homeless."

The causes vary widely. A layoff, a sudden illness, or a mental health issue - any of these things can suddenly devastate a person who hasn't needed help before. And so finding the right avenue for help can bury him in paperwork.

But thanks to a $200,000 grant from Wells Fargo, a new coordinated computer system will now link the long list of agencies assigned to address the different root causes, telling the homeless almost instantly how to get help for their specific set of needs.

"It really is different  in that we haven't had this kind of level of potential technology to then work together," McIntyre says.

The streamlined approach will save time and money, linking all of the community's resources.

Brian Collier is with Foundation for the Carolinas.  "In my perfect world," he says,  "this is just the start of actually looking holistically at the issues that face these individuals."

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