Homelessness in NC slightly increases; US rate down

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The number of homeless in our country is down while the numbers are slightly up in North Carolina, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There are 13,524 homeless people in North Carolinian this year, compared to 12,896 last year, according to the report.

"The economy has changed the face of homelessness," said Peggy Galloway, executive director of the Bethesda Center in Winston-Salem. "It's no longer the man who may be intoxicated but it could be any of us."

The center operates a day and night shelter for both men and women. Officials with the facility said they have seen the number of people using the day shelter go up while those looking for shelter at night has dropped.

Officials said 454 people use the day shelter at day, which is up from 376 people last year. At night 275 people use the shelter, down from 313 last year.

Case workers said the numbers at night are dropping thanks to a new way of thinking.

"We worry about getting them into housing first," said Elizabeth Blake, a case worker paid through a grant from the Kate B Reynolds Foundation.

Blake works with the program called Housing First, which finds a home for the homeless first then gets them help.

Officials said it's a process that has become successful in helping the chronic homeless while also saving tax dollars.

"It's a wonderful feeling turning the key in that door," said Antorinette Lott, who spent about a year homeless after her health forced her out of work. 

She received help through the Bethesda Center and now volunteers to help other homeless women. 

"This problem is so intense and so devastating and it can be solved if people can just pay attention,” she said.