Released today, the “2019 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Shelter System: Assessment of Capacity and Utilization” provides the community with a comprehensive look at the overall emergency shelter system. The assessment was completed by Mecklenburg County Community Support Services in partnership with United Way of Central Carolinas.


Charlotte-Mecklenburg faces a shortage of affordable housing, especially for low-income households earning at or below 30% of area median income ($25,000 for a family of four). This lack of affordable housing, in combination with other factors, contributes to housing instability and homelessness.


Cost-burdened and paying more than 30% of their income on rent, over 75,000 renter households teeter on the edge of homelessness. An additional 5,000 households are forced to enter an emergency shelter during the course of a year with many more turned away. This challenge is not unique to Charlotte-Mecklenburg – communities across the United States are considering how to effectively serve everyone in need of housing.


In response, over the past 12 months, United Way of Central Carolinas convened a series of meetings with emergency shelter providers in Mecklenburg County to facilitate opportunities for improved system efficiency and effectiveness. Providers worked on outlining complementary processes and resources as well as identifying gaps for services and populations experiencing homelessness. Mecklenburg County Community Support Services partnered with United Way and emergency shelter providers to conduct a community assessment of the overall system.


The “2019 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Shelter System: Assessment of Capacity and Utilization” is unique in that it evaluates emergency shelter as a system and places it within the larger context of the community’s permanent, affordable housing need and supply. The assessment also integrates best practice research in housing and homelessness into an objective framework to describe the current state of the emergency shelter system and offer recommendations for improvement.


The assessment illustrates the importance of connecting solutions for housing and homelessness. Readily available affordable housing would help address capacity issues in the shelters. However, there will always be a need for a crisis response system to serve individuals and families.


Charlotte-Mecklenburg can use this assessment to look at emergency shelter with a new lens and leverage existing resources and efforts in order to optimize the system, effectively connecting those most in crisis with shelter when needed.


A PDF of the report is available here.