CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Advocates for homeless families in Charlotte said Sunday that the Queen City has one of the fastest-growing homeless populations in the country, and resources are stretched thin.
Leaders at Charlotte Family Housing led a two-and-a-half mile walk through Plaza-Midwood Sunday afternoon to raise money and awareness about Charlotte's homeless population.
Charlotte Family Housing is a transitional program that accepts up to 25 families at a time in its three shelters, and helps them find a more permanent place to live. Parents must have a job to be accepted into the program.
The shelters are different from emergency housing like the Salvation Army Center of Hope or Men's Shelter in uptown -- CFH families spend three months at the shelter while they are supported in their search for a home. Social workers help them stay on course with their plans.
The goal of Sunday's march was to raise $65,000 to pay for those social workers, as well as rent and utilities at the shelters. About 300 people took part.
According to statistics quoted by CFH, homelessness in Charlotte rose 36% in 2010 -- the second-largest leap in the nation. In 2011, homelessness in the city rose 21%, followed by 23% in 2012. CFH cited a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for their report.
CFH was created in July 2011 from a merger of three agencies in Charlotte with a mission to help move families to permanent housing. It served 199 families last year -- 234 adults and 463 children -- which was 35% more than the previous three agencies combined had served the year before.
The number of homeless children in Charlotte still worries CFH's director of shelter operations, Kathy Gauger.
"To know that in any given year that over 4,000 children are considered homeless is a devastating number," she said. "In 2006 that number was 1842, and I remember that because we started an organization then -- and now that's close to tripling."
Advocates for the homeless said one of the many reasons Charlotte has seen an increase in its homeless population is because the city has a great reputation nationwide for having good jobs.
In the recession, many people moved to Charlotte for those jobs and many didn't materialize.
But the CFH program is proving to be a success, said spokeswoman Jennifer Frey. Frey said 91% of families placed in permanent housing through the program were able to pay all of their bills without help for at least a year.