Homeless problem growing in Durham

February 25, 2013 10:15:48 AM PST
New numbers out show the homeless population is growing in Durham, and the country's economic crisis is being blamed as one of the reasons behind the unprecedented growth.

The Durham Rescue Mission says its annual count of the homeless in the city shows a total of 759. That's substantially up from the record of 698 set last year.

While they may not be obvious, dozens live in the shadow of some of Durham's most successful and affluent areas. And exactly who is homeless may surprise you. James May, who's just 22, was one person we found Monday living at the Mission.

"Eviction brought me here. I couldn't afford to pay my rent, couldn't find a job," he explained.

Officials say the record count this year doesn't even include some homeless who don't want to be found or go to shelters.

"We believe, and we've seen it to be, because of their addictions. They don't want to give up their addictions," explained Rev. Ernie Mills with the Durham Rescue Mission.

Homeless advocates found that, statewide, about 2,000 homeless people live with mental illness, about 3200 have problems with drugs, 1,400 are veterans, and about 1300 are victims of domestic violence.  

Some take advantage of programs helping the homeless, but others remain on the street, where life can be tough.

"It's very, very cold, very cold, sir. And I wouldn't want to go through that again," offered Mission resident David Burnette.

Mills said before the mission just added more than 80 beds, about 66 homeless men slept on the floor of the dining room and the chapel.

To learn more, and perhaps help, check out these websites:

Durham Rescue Mission

Urban Ministries

North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

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