Throughout Charlotte Center City, visible poverty and homelessness are undoubtedly present. In truth, this visibility has grown exponentially over the last few years, so much so that homelessness can easily be categorized as an epidemic in our city. This is partly due to many area shelters being over capacity. This fact alone leaves far too many individuals out on the street. Aside from this, those involved in helping the homeless realize that our city is undeniably standing at a crossroads. Just how will our city rectify homelessness and visible poverty?
The government, private-sector, faith-based/nonprofit organizations, advocates, and shelter employees all have a hand in helping the homeless. In recent months, the homeless population has grown to 3600 individuals. It would be reasonable to assume that there is a well devised plan in place to combat homelessness as a whole. In truth, there are a plethora of networks established, however, the problem lies in the severe lack of organization within these networks. Additionally, varying viewpoints about the right prescription for the homeless population are festering just below the surface.
Recently, there has been a fair amount of tension between city leaders, advocates, and the above mentioned agencies. They are all largely divided both in how they handle the homeless crisis, and also in how they assist homeless individuals. The majority of shelter employees have the mentality that every homeless individual should seek refuge at their shelter. They also tend to believe that street outreach groups merely serve to enable homeless individuals and actually contribute to their displacement.
While our city needs emergency shelters for the situationally homeless, the shelter mentality is not the right solution for the chronically homeless. In fact, the majority of the chronically homeless population compare shelters to prison. In reality, the shelter mentality is so distorted that it ultimately fails in adequately assisting these individuals.
Furthermore, the agencies involved with helping the homeless all spend a fair amount of time duplicating resources. This means that many homeless individuals receive help from all of these agencies, while other homeless individuals may not receive any assistance. Moreover, we need to be more cognizant of the prerequisites and constraints surrounding those who remain unassisted. Ultimately, greater efforts need to be implemented to seek out and assist individuals who are currently languishing on our city streets.
The current policies regarding homelessness in our city make it nearly impossible to get out of the vicious cycle. Undoubtedly, until a concerted effort to resolve homelessness is enforced, proven solutions to end homelessness will continue to be largely ignored.