Durham, N.C. — In a week season of snow and freezing rain, Durham's Rescue Mission marked a jump of almost 40 percent in the homeless population. The Rescue Mission participated Jan. 30 in the annual "Point-in-Time Count," a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to standardize data gathered on the homeless nationwide.
The count found 272 people staying at the mission in 2012. In 2013, that number rose to 372. Countywide, almost 700 homeless people were counted, most of them men.
Dr. Ernie Mills, CEO of the Durham Rescue Mission, said the recession has not ended for those at the bottom of the income ladder.
"It is a depression for them, because they have nothing.
“In my 45 years of working with the homeless, first in Winston-Salem, and for the last 39 years here in Durham, I have never seen conditions in our economy as bad as now or lasting as long as this recession. It is understandable that people are running out of savings and they are turning to the Durham Rescue Mission as a last resort,” Mills said Friday.
Daniel Weddington, 44, lost his job as an auto mechanic last summer. "My work stopped. There just wasn't any work," he said. "I lived on my savings until I could not get by anymore."
Weddington lost his house. He still has a car, but said he can't afford to drive it.
"I just do what I have to do to survive," he said.
At the rescue mission, Weddington gets three meals and a place to lay his head.
"You have to start from scratch again," he said. That is hard. It is. That is hard."
The North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness reported more than 13,500 people counted as homeless across the state in the Jan. 25, 2012, "Point-in-Time Count."