It is difficult to get an accurate count of how many homeless people are in the area, but a survey conducted by homeless services agencies on Jan. 27, 2010 identified 673 homeless people in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. That’s up from 630 identified in a survey in January 2009.
The survey found 76 homeless families, including 189 children.
The actual numbers are higher, said Catrecia McCoy Bowman, housing specialist with the Southeastern Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Substance Abuse Services.
Her agency tries to locate homeless people who have mental health problems and provide them with assistance.
During the annual survey, teams go out to homeless shelters, feeding sites and locations of homeless camps.
But some homeless people living in make-shift camps are reluctant to talk, Bowman said.
“They didn’t want to do an interview and are very protective of information,” she said.
The survey found 461 homeless people in New Hanover County, 184 in Brunswick and 28 in Pender.
The Brunswick County number jumped the most, up from 101 a year earlier. Bowman said part of the increase is because more people have sought help in Brunswick County this year.
Since this fall, there has been more money available to help people find housing, Bowman said.
In October 2009, a coalition of agencies that help homeless people received a grant of $1.2 million in federal money that’s part of an economic recovery stimulus bill. The money will be spent in the three-county area over the next three years to help homeless people find a place to live. It’s called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program.
The money can be used to help pay security deposits, utility deposits and back rent for people who need assistance renting a place to live.
The Cape Fear Area United Way is the lead agency for the grant, which is being coordinated by the Good Shepard House, the Salvation Army, Pender Housing and Brunswick Family Assistance.
While many homeless people have been homeless for some time, there are many more who haven’t been homeless before, a sign of tough economic times.
Surveyors this year found what one termed “homeless fatigue,” Bowman said, because they are frustrated by chronic homelessness.
“A lot of people we saw last year are still out there. We have another population that is totally new to this,” Bowman said.
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Date posted: February 18, 2010
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