After rise in homelessness, local council hopes for a decrease in 2020

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — It’s that time of year again. Time for the Cape Fear Council of Government to get a count of homeless people in our area through it’s Point-in-Time event.

Last year they counted 431 homeless. This year they are hoping to see a decrease.

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There are so many people who are displaced every year for so many different reasons.

Last year’s numbers increased from 2018. Hurricane Florence may have been a factor.

Homelessness is an ongoing issue across the country and here.

Homeless Continuum of Care Director Maegan Zielinski says, “The solution to homelessness is housing. It’s right in the word, and sometimes I think we forget that.”

The agency counts all sheltered and unsheltered people in the region, covering New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties. It’s a federal requirement.

“Each of those counties are going out, and serving people with a 1-2 minute survey that they have created, and I’ll compile that data, and we use it in all of our federal reports, all of our grants,” Zielinski expressed.

She says the government uses the numbers for more in depth data to give an idea of the homelessness in the country.

Zielinski says the numbers they submit are only estimates.

She says, “Point in time is a snapshot of a day. It doesn’t make the whole picture of our entire homelessness problem in the region. It’s just that if we went out tonight, then we would expect to find x-amount of people in homelessness.”

She says our warmer climate may contribute the numbers of homeless here.

“If you go down to the Carolina Beach area or Kure Beach area, you might see an increase,” Zielinski said.

She says homelessness is an epidemic.

“Lack of affordable housing, an increase in homeless numbers, we definitely need more federal money to combat this problem,”

Zielinski says just two years ago they counted 333 people. That number increased last year by nearly 100.

Zielinski says Hurricane Florence and the Salvation Army shelter being out of commission likely contributed to the increase.

“We also used the new counting methodology last year, so it’s all in survey form. You can just do it right on your phone, and it gets all one administrative license,” Zielinski said.

They are counting those in shelters, and out on the streets.

Wednesday they had a mobile shower trailer at the Harrelson Center in Wilmington to encourage folks to come out, take advantage of it, and get counted.

Zielinski says they will have to total number after they duplicate the report and enter in all the numbers from the event.