Report: COVID-19 pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ homelessness, housing instability in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County

According to the report, 3,137 people were actively experiencing homelessness as of June 2021. That is up 55% from the 2,025 people who were homeless in June 2020.
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:54 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A new report sheds light on the housing instability and homelessness landscape in Mecklenburg County.

The number of people experiencing homelessness increased between June 2020 and June 2021.

According to the report, 3,137 people were actively experiencing homelessness as of June 2021. That is up 55% from the 2,025 people who were homeless in June 2020.

Households currently experiencing homelessness are primarily adults between the ages of 25 to 54, consisting of 46 percent of the total, and Black or African American, making up 77 percent, the report states.

“It’s not that I chose to be homeless, it happened to me,” said Lenord Iloka.

WBTV talked to 59-year-old Iloka in February of this year.

He’d been living in what had been come to be known as ‘Tent City.’

It’s one of many experiencing homelessness in Charlotte.

“It’s complex, deep, it’s challenging,” said Randall Hitt of Roof Above.

Hitt sees the problem firsthand.

He’s not surprised by the numbers put out in the 2021 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability and Homelessness Report.

As of July 2021, there were an estimated 28,174 Mecklenburg County households behind on rent, owing an average of $3,589, the report stated.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated housing instability and homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” the report stated.

Related: Residents of Charlotte’s “Tent City” required to leave property within 72 hours due to rodent infestation

“Even at our organization at Roof Above we actually have more shelter beds than we did a couple of years ago, and I don’t think people realize that. We have two shelters operating as well as a nightly shelter that’s operating and during COVID there were sheltering motels,” Hitt said.

Hitt says even though there were more people off the streets, they may have been in shelter beds.

“As we view it, that really is an indication of many systematic failures that have happened in our communities and society for the last several years,” Hitt said

Researchers said that Black and Hispanic households and low-income households – especially those with children – have been most severely impacted by job loss related to the pandemic and are most at risk for eviction.

The report also noted that the cost of rental properties is steadily rising. Between 2015 and 2019, the median gross monthly rent in Mecklenburg County increased an average of $30.25 per year, while the minimum wage remained at $7.25 per hour.

“As of 2019, the median gross rent in Mecklenburg County was $1,191 per month,” the report stated. “The price of rent is influenced by the availability of affordable housing.”

Researchers said one of the report’s key findings is that housing problems have been exposed that were hidden prior to the pandemic, as well as resulting in the allocation of millions of dollars to support households facing both housing and instability and homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.

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