WILMINGTON -- New data shows there are fewer homeless people on the nation's streets. But does that ring true in Wilmington? At the Salvation Army in Wilmington there are 54 beds, which are 95 percent full 100 percent of the time. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reports a 12 percent drop in the number of chronically homeless people living on the nation's streets. These are people who have been homeless for at least one year continuously or at least four times in the last three years and also have a disability. This is the first time ever the homeless population in the US has dropped. A housing specialist in the area said that while the population of chronically homeless is dropping in greater Wilmington it is not dropping at the same rate that it is nationally. A lot of that has to do with the lack of affordable housing in this area. Housing specialist Anita Oldham said, "It is difficult because builders can build half a million dollar houses and make a huge profit or build affordable housing and make a very small profit." While there has been a 218 percent increase in the number of affordable housing units in the Cape Fear area since 2005, Anita Oldham says that's still not enough. She estimates the area still needs at least 200 more units. With the cold weather coming shelters like the Salvation Army are preparing. Anyone can come inside here for a hot meal every day at 5:30 p.m., no questions asked. And when the temperature outside drops below 32 degrees they set up cots here for additional people to be able to sleep inside overnight.
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