GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Hundreds of people make up Gaston County’s homeless population, and the problem is only getting worse.
Gaston County leaders are actively working to find solutions through their Homelessness Prevention Committee. One of their first initiatives is called "One Stop Shop."
At the Salvation Army in downtown Gastonia, twice a week, people who are homeless can get the services they need.
“You feel lost," Many Crump told WCNC Charlotte's Lexi Wilson.
For Crump, being homeless is something she never thought she would experience. She said about six months ago, she was renting a home, until the owners decided to sell. Now, she lives on friends' couches.
“You wear out your welcome and you don’t want to be a burden on anyone," Crump said.
Crump said she's on disability but is in the works of trying to find a job, but she's fearful she still won't be able to make enough money to find a place to live.
“Rent has went up at least $300 for anywhere, any kind of housing, two bedroom trailer, $900 a month, it’s wild," Crump said.
"We don’t have enough affordable housing," Teena Willis, housing manager at Partners Health Management, said.
Gaston County is working to fight homelessness. Community leaders launching this new collaboration between government agencies and nonprofits.
“We're better together," Budget Analyst for Gaston County, Elizabeth McGee said.
From housing assistance to overdose education, "One Stop Shop' provides people living on the streets a way to connect to the resources they need.
“In order to be able to help people you need to come at the problem with a whole bunch of unique solutions," McGee said.
Homelessness can exist alongside other issues, like substance abuse and poor mental health.
“Substance use has increased, people self-medicating, dealing with issues, dealing with isolation," Willis said.
“We understand that people will use, so we want them to be safe about how they’re using," Captain for Gaston County EMS, Brandon Miller said.
Miller said they've seen an increase in the homeless population overdoing from fentanyl, that's why they offer Narcan and fentanyl test strip kits to those who may be addicted to drugs.
“It’s been proven that if you approach it from a harm reduction aspect or perspective, that people are more likely to enter a treatment facility," Miller said.
This new initiative provides solutions and resources that people like Mary Crump hope will make a difference.
“I’m very very glad they came up with something like this," Crump said.
"One Stop Shop" is every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's important to note, this Thursday, Nov. 24, it will be closed for Thanksgiving.
WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions producing I Can’t Afford to Live Here, a collaborative reporting project focused on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.