Durham, NC

Durham organizations work to end homelessness

The Triangle Tribune

The number of children under 18 experiencing unsheltered homelessness in North Carolina has quadrupled.Photo byFile

By Mia Khatib


DURHAM — The number of children under 18 experiencing unsheltered homelessness in North Carolina quadrupled from 119 in 2020 to 482 in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Durham, many different organizations are working to reduce these numbers and to help people and families secure permanent housing.

However, these services are only accessible through a referral from Entry Point, Durham’s coordinated entry intake system for assisting the unhoused. “One of the goals, when possible, is to help people completely skip the shelter stage and go from being unsheltered straight into housing. And we're often able to do that,” Housing for New Hope Executive Director Russell Pierce said.

HFNH has a rapid rehousing program, which connects unsheltered people to permanent housing and offers up to two years of supportive services to help them maintain it. These services include partial rental assistance, child care services, job training and more.

The nonprofit also has a supportive housing program where chronically homeless individuals, by federal standards, receive “long term and larger support” and may reside in one of HFNH’s supporting housing communities. Pierce said many people who are chronically homeless often cycle in and out of the system, but “with the right support and setting, they’re often able to stay stable for a long time.”

Because housing is so tight, he said, everybody’s operating with a waitlist, and Entry Point prioritizes clients based on their barriers to housing, the availability of services, and the willingness of landlords to work with certain clients and their needs. “The more housing barriers you have, the easier it is to prioritize you. And I think, as much as people are comfortable with, to share as much of their situation as possible because oftentimes there are specialized resources out there that really can help with a number of things,” he said.

Urban Ministries of Durham is one of the largest local emergency shelter providers for single adults. It also operates a community cafe that serves three free meals daily and has a food pantry from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and a clothing closet from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. These non-housing services are available to low-resource households without an Entry Point referral.

UMD Executive Director Sheldon Mitchell said shelter residents are assigned a case manager to help them work around their housing obstacles and create a development plan to secure housing.

“Oftentimes, income is one of the biggest barriers for a lot of people, so we got a workforce development group that works with individuals on employability skills, job search, resume prep, trying to help them secure employment,” he said.

According to 2023 data by the N.C. Housing Coalition, 31% of Durham County households are cost burdened, and Mitchell said UMD is seeing more clients come in because their rent increased substantially and unaffordably.

In addition to rapid rehousing and emergency shelter for families with children, Families Moving Forward also works with schools and child psychologists to get children the education they need early and break the poverty cycle,” FMF Executive Director Tammy Laurence said.

FMF also received grant approval from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to launch two new programs in April: a master lease program and a microloan program. With the master lease program, FMF will partner with local landlords and management companies that will allow them to hold leases for families that otherwise would not qualify for that housing. “If we are going to be responsible in making sure that this family is paying their rent, then we feel like that might help the landlords,” she said. “We really believe in the families that we are supporting, and we're putting ourselves on the line to try to make sure that we're getting more housing for families.”

Laurence said some parents that come to FMF are barbers, nail technicians or hold other jobs that require renewable certifications, and the microloan will help those that can’t afford to pay for these renewals or other expenses related to job and housing security.

“It’s not really a handout. They're getting a small loan; they're able to pay it back over time at no interest, and then the money goes in the pot for other people that want to maybe try to start their own business,” she said.

FMF is also partnering with UMD and Partnership for Children to offer child care vouchers for families looking for jobs. Laurence said American Rescue Plan funds have been approved for these vouchers, and “this will help families to be able to actually go out and look for jobs, knowing that their children are getting good child care.”

“We are on the verge of, if we're not already in, mass displacement,” Pierce said. “People are just losing their housing left and right.”

To set up an intake with Entry Point Durham, call (984) 287-8313 or visit durhamcoc.org for more information.

Mia Khatib, who covers affordable housing and gentrification, is a Report for America corps member.

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