For the past several years, BCHC had been a source of financial and human support for the homeless. We’ve tried to forestall and prevent homelessness by providing funds to pay for power bills, rent, and other necessities for those at risk of losing their homes. We’ve also placed people in motels where no temporary shelter beds were available. As there is no overnight homeless shelter in Brunswick County, we’ve been an advocate for building one here to provide emergency housing for the homeless.
Recent events and research are also leading us in another direction. Last year, the Brunswick County fire marshal set out new rules that will again allow local churches to house the homeless in emergency situations. This action by the County somewhat relieves the pressure for a local shelter. On the research front, a March 30, 2016 guest opinion published in the Wilmington Star News sets out the case for more emphasis on a quicker transition to permanent housing with supportive services. The author, Katrina Knight, should know. She is the executive director of Wilmington’s Good Shepherd Ministries, the primary homeless shelter in New Hanover County. In her article, she states “ We can keep adding shelters and shelter beds and allowing the ranks of homeless individuals and families to swell, or we can invest in housing strategies that shorten the length of people’s crises and return them more quickly to housing and stability in the community. “ One such strategy, rapid re-housing (RRH), is to place homeless families in long-term housing with adequate support services as soon as possible. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reported that more than 85% of rapidly-re-housed homeless families never fall back into homelessness.
Whereas RRH beds in the United States increased by nearly 60% from 2014 to 2015, North Carolina lags both the nation and many of our neighboring states in its support for rapid re-housing. From 2014 to 2015 the supply of RRH beds in North Carolina decreased by about 20%, while RRH beds increased by 90% in Georgia and 131% Tennessee.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness set out three core components for a rapid re-housing program: (1) Identify and recruit landlords by understanding and addressing their perspectives ; (2) subsidize rent and move-in expenses, and; (3)identify and co-ordinate with agencies willing to provide support services .
BCHC already addresses the second core component through our financial support programs. How should we spend our time and resources on the first and third components as well? Let us know your opinion. Come to our next meeting on the first Tuesday of each month at the Brunswick Senior Resource Center at 3620 Express Drive, Shallotte (exit route 17 north at Smith Street) to learn more and express your view.