Dozens of volunteers will fan out across Stanislaus County on the last day of the month, going into parks, along riverbanks and soup kitchens to count and interview the homeless.
The Jan. 31 count is part of a national effort to tally the homeless.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires nonprofits, social service providers and government agencies that apply for its homeless grants to conduct a count every two years in the final days of January.
The local count is being conducted by the Stanislaus Housing & Support Services Collaborative. The group was formed more than 15 years ago and includes the county's major nonprofits, county government, the Housing Authority of the County of Stanislaus and the cities of Turlock and Modesto. Its members have received about $40 million in HUD funding over the years to help the homeless.
Previous biennial counts have turned up 1,409 homeless in 2011, 1,800 in 2009 and 1,593 in 2007. But organizers say these counts are one-day snapshots and don't include all of Stanislaus County's homeless.
The counts produce valuable information. The volunteers will be armed with clipboards and questionnaires. They will ask the homeless 28 questions, including how long they have been homeless, whether they have served in the military, their age and the reasons for their homelessness.
This information helps nonprofits and social serv- ice agencies better target their services. A family with children that has been homeless for a few months has different problems than a single man who has been homeless for years.
The volunteers will go to the parks, riverbanks, shelters and other places where the homeless gather in Mo- desto, Turlock, Ceres, Riverbank, Oakdale, Newman and Patterson.
They will hand out bags filled with snacks such as granola and trail mix.
Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca is providing snacks, but more are needed. Volunteers need single-serving containers of snacks. They do not need bottled water or hygiene products. Donations can dropped off at the Housing Authority, 1701 Robertson Road, Modesto. For more information, call Michele Gonzales at (209) 557-2025.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.