Survey accounts for 652 homeless in Durham

By Purity Kimaiyo
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

A new face of homelessness is striking as more people face mounting economic pressure and foreclosure of homes according to a survey done by Durham’s Ten Years to End Homelessness Project. In an event to focus public attention on homelessness, volunteers knocked on shelter homes in Durham and accounted for 652 homeless people, a three percent decrease from the year 2010.

Rebecca Allred sits in the garden of her current home, The Good Samaritan Inn. She will complete their vocational training program in September. Photo by Purity Kimaiyo.

“It’s interesting that the 652 individuals have names and stories, what happens to them affects all of us,” said Mayor Bill Bell at the results meeting. The mayor pointed out that compared to other Southeastern cities such as Greensboro which has 1024 homeless people; Durham appeared to be doing better. Bell is particularly concerned about homeless people with disabilities.

All 10 homeless housing providers participated in the point in time count on Jan. 26. The project had the help of 83 volunteers coordinated by the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition.

The federal government defines a homeless person as one who lacks a fixed adequate nighttime residence, lives in an emergency shelter, temporary institution residence for less than 90 days and was homeless at the time of entry into that institution; someone who sleeps in cars, parks, streets/sidewalks or abandoned buildings (unsheltered homeless).

The breakdown, according to the findings presented by Resource Specialist Lanea Foster, included 44 homeless families (a 14 percent decrease), 82 children (a two percent decrease), and 126 people in permanent sheltered homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defined 652 as homeless, 191 precariously housed, 77 as transition-aged youth, 9 unaccompanied minors and another 55 who are in danger of eviction. This would bring the total to 843 people.

The disparities in numbers show how difficult it is to establish the exact number of homeless people in Durham. From people crashing on a friend’s couch, to doubling up with relatives, it is impossible to get an exact figure of homeless people especially when people walk in and out of shelters. According to National Coalition of the homeless, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness annually.

Rebecca Allred, a native of Danville, VA, and her husband made a good living with beautiful children while working as electricians. They both lost their jobs and packed up in search of greener pastures in South Carolina, where they resorted to living in motels because they couldn’t find employment. Allred decided to seek help when she no longer had a place to live.

She currently resides at the The Good Samaritan Inn, the women’s home for the Durham Rescue Mission, the largest homeless housing provider in Durham with about 43 percent of the homeless.

“My husband and I lost everything — our kids, house and jobs,” said Allred. “This facility has given us support spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and vocational training for us to pick our pieces together.”

Allred and her husband hope to move to transitioned housing when they both graduate from vocational training in September and plan to eventually reunite with their children.

Durham County Commissioner Michael Page emphasized that it was important for everyone to be their neighbors’ keeper. He called on individuals and institutions to aid in helping people connect with social services, access food, health care and housing. He hoped that the churches would open their doors and provide housing and not function just as prayer houses.  “No other community has done such research,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Cora Cole-McFadden. “Let’s make Durham a high-performing community. We will not accept anything less.”

The point-in-time data help the city and other organizations determine the number of homeless people for them to plan and put an end to the homeless situation.

For more information visit