UPDATE: Click here to read The Charlotte Observer’s article on the newly released numbers of homeless in Mecklenburg county.
12.9. Maybe you’ve seen those stickers some people have on their cars that represent the number of miles they’ve run in a marathon. 13.1 for a half marathon. 26.2 for the hard core, full marathon types. So what about 12.9? That’s how many square miles you could go in any direction in Mecklenburg county and run into a homeless person.
According to new numbers from the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelesness, the number of homeless people in Mecklenburg county as of January 2011 is roughly 6,800. That translates to roughly 0.75% of the county’s population.
Some other important findings from the survey:
- Number of homeless children in Mecklenburg county, according to reports by CMS: 3,564 (up 22% from last year)
- Overall homelessness increased by 8% from winter 2010
- Since the survey was taken during a very cold month (January) the number of people sleeping somewhere not suitable for human habitation (i.e. under a bridge) is most likely very underrepresented (in 2010 it was 737 vs. this year at 315)
- Biggest contributors, as cited in the survey report, were “the down economy, continued high unemployment rates, and the lack of affordable housing”
That’s a lot of information. A lot of numbers. But we are also talking about individual people. People that need our help.
It can seem like you have to go to Africa or some other far off country to make a difference these days. Maybe it is similar to vacations, where everything is different there, and when we come home everything is “back to normal.” We see people all over the news adopting babies from other countries, and going overseas to fight diseases.
These are all incredibly noble pursuits. Jesus himself said, in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
But when we let things get “back to normal” at home we end up with a 22% increase in the number of homeless children all around us! We can’t allow ourselves to forget the local needs in our communities.
It’s so easy to miss thinking about the needs of the people that live so close to us. We get comfortable in our routines and content with our lives.
I believe the local church is the hope of the world. The church will, quite literally, go where no one else will. My church, for example, just sent a group to the Phillipines where they will be helping to build a safe haven for children being rescued from the sex trafficking industry there. The church must be willing to provide help when no one else can or will. Abroad and at home. If the local church is indeed the hope of the world, and not even the gates of hell can hold it back, then the local church should be aiding as many homeless people as it can.
I like numbers and statistics. You can’t hide from them. That’s why I wanted everyone to know the most current number of homeless people around us.
Jesus never traveled more than a couple hundred miles from the place he was born. There could be many reasons: he could only travel on foot or by donkey, the world was smaller then, there weren’t as many people. All these are true. But I think it had to do with the fact that He realized how many people around Him needed His salvation.
We should all be training to go much further than 12.9 miles the next time we are looking for a homeless person to help.
Crisis Assistance Ministry: Providing help and hope to families in crisis through emergency financial assistance to prevent eviction and loss of utilities
Second Harvest Foodbank: Provide a regional distribution warehouse and branches that supply food and grocery items to charitable agencies that assist people in need.
List of places to get involved in and around Charlotte, NC
Sources and Information:
*Special thanks to Megan Coffey with the NCCEH for providing me with the most recent report (the contents of which have not been published yet to my knowledge)
Charlotte Observer article from July 2010, this is where I pulled the most recent estimates of Mecklenburg County’s population
12.9 calculation made using the total # of homeless (6,800) / 526 sq. miles of land in Mecklenburg county.