Volunteers will be out across much of Stanislaus County in late January to count and interview the homeless.
The count has been taking place every two years in Stanislaus County, but organizers are moving toward annual tallies. The biennial counts are a requirement for the government agencies and nonprofit agencies in their applications for federal funding to help the homeless with housing and other services.
Stanislaus Housing & Support Services Collaborative President Aaron Farnon said the federal government encourages organizations to conduct annual counts, which provide valuable information for those who help the homeless. The collaborative is a collection of government agencies, faith-based groups, nonprofits and others who work together on tackling homelessness.
For instance, Farnon said the count helps pinpoint homeless services. So if the count turns up more homeless families with children, then social-service agencies can tailor their efforts toward that group.
Farnon said recent counts have shown the overall numbers of homeless people declining, but the numbers in some subgroups – such as the chronically homeless – have not budged.
The most recent count was conducted in January, and volunteers tallied 1,201 homeless people. Similar one-day counts conducted since 2005 have found 1,434 to 1,800 homeless people in the county.
These counts are a snapshot of homelessness at a given time and cannot provide a complete picture of homelessness in a community; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development calls them “point in time” counts.
Besides enumerating the number of homeless people, the volunteer counters compile basic information on the homeless, such as age, how long they have been homeless, where they last lived before becoming homeless and whether they have served in the military.
The collaborative needs volunteers and other help with the count. Those wishing to help can email Michele Gonzales at firstname.lastname@example.org.