CARING IN THE COMMUNITY: More demand, fewer funds for groups helping homeless

Dec. 30, 2013 @ 04:12 PM

The Herald-Sun takes a look at the triumphs and challenges facing nonprofit organizations and agencies tackling some of Durham’s most pressing social issues – homelessness, mental illness and gang violence.

For places like CAARE, Genesis Home, Urban Ministries and Durham Rescue Mission, which all provide shelter services and permanent housing opportunities for the homeless, 2014 is a year to expand their reach, add to their buildings, and increase their staff and community fundraising.

At the end of January, the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness takes a headcount of homeless individuals by county. The coalition sends people out to look under bridges, in abandoned houses, and on the streets. This year, there were 759 homeless individuals counted in Durham County, compared to Durham’s 2012 headcount of 698.
“The face of homelessness has changed drastically,” said Alexander Herring, Urban Ministries of Durham program director. “People tend to couch surf a lot more or move to a friend’s home or move home and double up with family members. It’s a lot more prevalent than it once was.”
In 2014, Urban Ministries is going to continue with their new veterans outreach program, where it partnered with the Durham VA Medical Center and helped about 30 vets find permanent housing this year. Herring said the organization also will work with N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill to add more social work interns to his staff, and they’re renovating the office to add more space for care providers.
A big concern for the new year is the budget, Herring said, where they’ll be replacing government funding with community donations.
Ryan Fehrman, executive director of Genesis Home, said one of their recent grants was cut from $30,000 to about $17,000. Sequestration has caused them to double-time their community fundraising to avoid cutting staff. They’ve helped 14 families transition into permanent housing this year and currently have 50 people living in their shelter.
It takes months, not days, to help someone transition into a stable environment. But in special cases, organizations speed up the process to reduce vulnerability. For example, Sharon Elliott-Bynum, CAARE executive director, said one of the organization’s clients was moved into permanent housing after about 30 days because there was a frostbite concern.
The client had been living in a car during winter.
Right now, CAARE has nine out of 24 of its beds occupied. It just added an additional 15 this year and is hoping to add a few more in 2014 specifically for homeless female veterans. It has a 93 percent success rate in transitioning veterans into permanent housing with steady income.
Durham Rescue Mission CEO Ernie Mills said it currently has 425 people staying in its facility off East Main Street. The Rescue Mission opened up a new dorm this year, adding 88 beds, as well as a large dining room and kitchen.
It has seen a 37 percent increase in residents over the past year, which has strained its budget. Mills said he also has been asking Durham community members for increased financial support.
But he considers the additional foot traffic into the mission a good change that will carry into the new year.
“They’re seeing there is hope out there and they’re seeing people change their lives,” Mills said.