RALEIGH, N.C. — Christmas lights in downtown Raleigh represent the warmth of the holidays, but they also signify the cold December season.
In the Triangle, there are an estimated 2,000 homeless men, women and children. As winter arrives, some new ways to deal with the homeless are already in place and others are in the works.
For the first time in her life, 20-year-old Crystal Pinckney is homeless.
"You see everybody else on their way home and you are just sitting, there waiting to get into a shelter," she said.
Local churches, government, nonprofits and the homeless are all working together to prevent people like Pinckney from ending up out in the cold.
A 10-year action plan on ending homelessness is about complete. The top priorities are housing, jobs, and education.
A committee has hundreds of recommendations.
"We have too many people who are being discharged from our mental hospitals and jails and prisons that are going straight into homelessness. They are not prepared and we need to make sure they are better prepared to come into society," committee member Ken Maness said.
The Raleigh Police Department did not have any guidelines when it came to how to dismantle homeless camps.
After two police officers were reprimanded for an incident last year, it came up with a uniform policy that requires police to give homeless notice before they take apart a campsite.
"I think the opportunity is to go one step further and provide compassion to the homeless while still providing the service to property owners," said Capt. Jeff Flunk of hte Raleigh Police Department.
Pinckney is hopeful compassion will help get her a new job and give her new hope.
"I can just have a key and open the door," she said.
The 10-year action plan will be presented to the community in February, with parts expected to be implemented right away. The committee is still trying to put a dollar amount on all their recommendations.