Census for homeless
KINGSFORD — Each January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a census of the homeless population in every county nationwide.
The Salvation Army Bread of Life Assistance Center of Kingsford, and its volunteers, will again conduct the Point-in-Time count in Dickinson and Iron counties.
“Annually — on a single night — a survey of all the sheltered and unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness takes place,” Salvation Army Director Tara Blagec said. “We will be out on Jan. 26 with our boots on the ground.”
Blagec noted there are many classifications of homelessness but for this specific count they need to follow a certain criteria.
Those in the unsheltered living count are individuals and/or families with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings. This includes those staying in a car, park, abandoned buildings, bus or train station, airport or campground between sundown Jan. 26 until sunrise Jan. 27.
“We look everywhere,” Salvation Army Case Manager Jennifer Witte said. “We are out canvasing the area regardless of what the temperature is.”
With Blagec’s years of experience doing the count, she has the knowledge of where past clients have stayed at night that includes caves and heavily wooded areas.
Information will then be collect from each homeless individual they come in contact with for the count. Volunteers will then offer them assistance and connect them with the correct resources.
“We don’t want anyone out in these elements,” Blagec stressed. “These people also have to be willing to accept help.”
The data gathered during this single-night count is very important, as it’s used to allocate federal funds.
“It helps our communities plan services and programs to appropriately address local needs, measure progress in decreasing homelessness and identifies strength and gaps in the current assistance system,” Blagec said.
Also included are those individuals or families who fit the criteria of the sheltered count. This covers those living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangement — including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotel and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state or local government programs for low-income individuals — on the night indicated.
Those staying with family and friends — “doubled-up” or “couch surfing” — or residing in any type of institutions such as jails, juvenile correction facilities, foster care, hospital beds or detox centers are not included in the count, Blagec said.
“We don’t ignore those situations but for this specific purpose they aren’t covered,” Blagec said.
“This is actually the only count that gives the area a good idea what homeless in the community looks like,” she added.
There also is a seven-day window from Jan. 26 in which data can be added. If the Salvation Army is made aware of someone who meets any of the criteria, they can be part of the PIT count.
During the night of the count, they will be handing out food as well as personal hygiene kits that were donated by a local CCD class.
Blagec and Witte will also leave hand sanitizers, warmers and other items that are labeled Housing Assessment and Resources Agency.
“We want to get that number out there to get them on the right path and out of homelessness,” Witte said.
If anyone knows of someone who has been staying in a place not meant for human habitation, they are asked to contact the Salvation Army at 906-779-5717 or, on the night of the count, at 906-282-0179. All callers will remain anonymous.
They also hope at one point in the evening to “camp out” in the van in the Walmart parking lot to provide easy access to those in need.
“After canvasing the areas, we want to be available to anyone that needs shelter or food,” Witte said.
Those experiencing an immediate housing crisis can contact the Housing Assessment and Resource Agency at 1-800-562-9762, ext. 207.
The local community receives resources that are administrated through the HARA, Blagec said.
In addition to Dickinson and Iron counties, eight other counties in the region — Marquette, Alger, Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft, Baraga, Keweenaw and Houghton — will have volunteers working together to ensuring the point-in-time count is conducted to addresses the needs of homelessness.
Blagec explained that while the Salvation Army in Kingsford is not contracted with the HARA, they work alongside them in an effort to find solutions to homelessness in the community.
“We all have to come together to help those in need,” Blagec said.
They stress that regardless of the exact number — or even the circumstances of how people become homeless — local programs are available to anyone.