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Annual homeless count under way
Volunteers with the Kings/Tulare Continuum of Care on Homelessness — a plan aimed at addressing the needs of the homeless to lead them on the path to self-sufficiency — visited Helping Hands Wednesday to kick off the annual Point-in-Time count.
The survey, mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and carried out by groups of volunteers nationwide, is a count of sheltered and unsheltered persons on a single night in late January.
“It’s to get a snapshot of the state of homelessness in the country,” said Denise Marchant, a volunteer with the continuum.
Marchant said every year there is funding available through HUD for agencies such as the continuum to use, mainly for permanent supportive housing but also for emergency shelters and transitional housing.
The continuum also receives HUD funding for its Shelter Plus Care voucher program, which provides housing and supportive services on a long-term basis for chronically-homeless individuals with disabilities and their families.
“The point of this is to really try to make a difference of getting everybody permanent housing and getting them the supportive services they need to be able to sustain that housing,” Marchant said.
More than 120 people visited Helping Hands Wednesday and by 12:10 p.m., Marchant had surveyed six people, a number she said was typical.
“It’s pretty typical...it’s not a good thing. We weren’t overwhelmed so that could be a good thing but you’d think a lot of them come here for a hot meal. It would be nice if this were it, but I think there’s more out there,” she said.
Edith La Vonne, who has volunteered at the local soup kitchen for roughly a year, said that more than homeless individuals she sees a lot of working poor.
“We have a lot of working poor. The end of the month is when I see new faces,” she said. “Money runs out, their food stamps run out. You think about people on SSI — it’s supposed to be food, housing, everything. If you get $680 for the month, that doesn’t go far; at the end of the month you need to come here.”
The few homeless individuals who did complete surveys, answered questions such as where they slept the prior night, how long they’ve been homeless and if anyone in their household is a victim of domestic violence.
Volunteer Kitty Highfill had interviewed seven people by noon, including a couple. She said that each individual was asked if they were seeking any particular services, from food, to health care, to job training.
“They’re all looking for some place to stay, they’re looking for security; the same things we all want,” she said.
The survey will continue through the remainder of the week.
Marchant said another group of volunteers that reaches out to the homeless community throughout the year will help count the homeless who camp along the Tule River.
She said they will also attempt to count those homeless individuals who live in surrounding communities such as Terra Bella and Strathmore.
“It’s very difficult in the rural areas if there’s not a specific location that they go to to really find them,” Marchant said. “If they’re just out in the orchards, it’s really hard to find them.”