Volunteers survey those who most people pass by
About three dozen volunteers moved through four Columbus shelters Tuesday night, conducting the annual “Point-in-Time” count of the local homeless population.
Angwell Anderson, 56, was one of the people counted during the diner-hour at Grace House in Beallwood. The U.S. Army veteran has been homeless for about a month, he told those asking him survey questions.
The information is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is tied to funding. There is also a local database that allows those agencies in the Chattahoochee Valley that assist homeless residents to better know the needs.
“I am glad that there is a program to help those down on their luck,” said Anderson, who said he was Regular Army for 12 years and in the National Guard for six more.
This is an annual process that began in 2009 under the direction of the Homeless Resource Network. Two years ago, Home for Good, the local United Way agency charged with implementing the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, coordinated the effort.
Volunteers will be back on the streets Wednesday morning before dawn to survey the homeless camps and shelters that provide meals.
“When you do this, you see a person, not just a face,” said United Way President Scott Ferguson, who was participating in the process for the fourth year in a row. “And when you ask these personal questions you see the struggle.”
In addition to getting a number — a snapshot, Ferguson calls it — you also get data on mental illness, family situation, education, criminal background and other information.
The volunteers went into Trinity House, Grace House, House of Mercy and the Salvation Army. The survey was being doing by staff at Valley Rescue Mission and Damascus Way.
The survey of shelters, camps and programs that assist the homeless was conducted Jan. 24 and 25, 2016.
There were 303 homeless residents — 217 who slept in shelters and another 86 who slept outside. The numbers are reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In January 2015, there were 371 homeless people reported to HUD. Those records show that 206 slept in shelters and 165 slept outside.
The weather this year is much warmer than the last two years, which could impact the numbers, Ferguson said. The overnight low is expected to reach the mid-40s. Last year, it was below freezing.