Local News

Economy driving people into homelessness

Posted September 25, 2008 4:24 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2008 7:34 p.m. EDT

— The number of homeless people in Wake County jumped more than 9 percent in 2007, and advocates blame the increase on rising prices, the sour housing market and high unemployment.

An annual count by the Raleigh/Wake County Plan to End and Prevent Homelessness found 1,141 homeless people last year. That was the highest number in four years, and advocates said it likely doesn't reflect the magnitude of the problem.

Lisa Williams, executive director of the Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network, estimates about 2,000 people are in area homeless shelters on any given night. Six families showed up at her shelter in the last two months because of foreclosures, she said.

"They were renting from someone who owned a home, and now their home has been foreclosed, so they lost their housing," Williams said.

The tough economy is putting more families on the street. Officials said 41 percent of the homeless in Wake County are women and children.

"When you're barely making it paycheck-to-paycheck anyway (and) gas and milk go up to $4 a gallon, you can't choose between the two. It has to give somewhere," Williams said.

Regina Simmons and her 7-year-old daughter, Georgie Ross, lost their home because they could no longer afford the rent.

"We had our own home, and then things went wrong," Simmons said.

They went to a Thursday event in downtown Raleigh designed to provide a range of assistance for the homeless, including finding help with paying rent.

"I let her know that this is only temporary. We are going to have a home soon," Simmons said.

Shonda Stamps said she doesn't want to have her baby in a shelter.

"It's hard because I feel like, sometimes, it's all my fault," Stamps said. "The economy is so bad, it's hard to get anything from anyone."